UJA-Federation of New York delivers humanitarian aid to Puerto Rico, returns with stranded firefighter


(JTA) — UJA-Federation of New York delivered a planeload of humanitarian supplies to the JCC in Puerto Rico and returned a stranded retired New York firefighter in time for his son’s wedding.

Firefighters in the city of Yonkers collected the supplies that arrived in Puerto Rico on Sunday morning in the wake of Hurricane Maria. The supplies were packed by the Afya Foundation for distribution by the Puerto Rico JCC to Jews and non-Jews, according to UJA.

UJA leaders including President Jeffrey Schoenfeld, CEO Eric Goldstein and Executive Vice President Mark Medin accompanied the flight and met in Puerto Rico with a Chabad rabbi, Mendel Zarchi, and Jeff Berezdivin, president of the JCC in San Juan.

“We are scraping the bottom, running out of supplies – food, water, medications, diapers,” Zarchi told UJA. “People here need everything. This will benefit the Jewish and broader community – so many are in desperate need right now. We cannot thank you enough. May we all be sealed in the book of life.”

Among the supplies delivered were water and water filtration tablets or bottles; hand sanitizer; baby wipes, formula and diapers; canned and dried food; pet food; garbage bags; over-the-counter medications for pain, stomach ailments and diarrhea for adults and children; feminine hygiene products; insect repellent; first aid kits; batteries; and work gloves.

The plane returned to New York Sunday evening carrying the retired firefighter, Jose Carabello, who had been in Puerto Rico caring for his hospitalized father when the hurricane hit. He served as the best man for his son, who also is a Yonkers firefighter.

Meanwhile, the Florida chapter of WIZO, the Women’s International Zionist Organization, chartered a plane loaded with food, rations and basic necessities collected largely by the Hispanic Jewish community of Miami to send to Puerto Rico.

“It was very important for us to show our solidarity with the people of Puerto Rico,” Goldy Retchkiman, deputy director of WIZO Florida, said in a statement. “As Hispanics, we have ties that commit us to help as much as we are able to alleviate this terrible situation, and what is happening on the island is a tragedy that we could not brush aside.”

She added: “As mothers and Hispanics, we can only imagine what these women are going through and we cannot turn our backs on them.”