Hurricane Harvey:
Texas community cancels prayers, evacuates synagogue

Bnei Akiva representative says he'll spend Shabbat at friends' house, since theirs 'is higher up.' FEMA director: Recovery to take years.

Chana Roberts,

In Texas on Friday afternoon
In Texas on Friday afternoon
World Bnei Akiva

Houston, Texas' World Bnei Akiva team announced on Friday that prayers would be canceled and the synagogue closed due to Hurricane Harvey.

Harvey hit Texas on Friday night as a Category 4 hurricane, with winds gusting at up to 130 miles per hour.

World Bnei Akiva emissary Rafi Engelhart said, "We're preparing for the worst. If there are a few centimeters of water in our home, we'll go to a friend's house that's a bit higher up. We've taken most of the chairs out of the synagogue, and placed the prayer books on the top shelves."

"Obviously every family has a lot to worry about. There may be a lot of damage to property, cars, and homes, but there isn't a threat to life."

He added that the Friday night and Saturday morning prayers would take place as scheduled, but Saturday afternoon and evening prayers had been canceled. World Bnei Akiva activities scheduled for Sunday have been canceled as well.

"Our community consists both of people whose homes are hurricane-proof, and those whose homes are ordinary," he said. "Those who have relatively low homes will place everything valuable on chairs and chests, and ensure everything is stable and can withstand possible flooding. They also ensure that there is enough water for drinking, because when there is flooding, the water becomes contaminated. They also make sure to stock up on food, because there is a fear of flooding on the roads, which will not make it possible to reach the supermarket."

Rafi and his wife Shifra do not intend to leave the area, though, since they have friends who are staying put.

"The Torah teaches us that we should not abandon the public in times of trouble, so we are staying here in the meantime," Rafi said.

300,000 people are reported to have lost electricity, and ports, train stations, and airports are still closed.

"This is going to be an unprecedented long and frustrating event for the state of Texas," US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Director Brock Long told MSNBC on Saturday. "The recovery from this disaster is going to be years."




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