Jewish Communities in Missouri and Texas Endure Storms

A tattered U.S. flag that had been attatched to a tree waves over the debris at the Landmark at Lake Village North Apartments as the recovery process begins following tornadoes which hit the area late Saturday night December 28, 2015 in Garland, Texas. A meteorolocical assault of tornadoes, blizzards and heavy rain have left dozens dead and a large path of property damage in the Central, U.S. (Photo by Stewart F. House/Getty Images)
A U.S. flag that had been attached to a tree waves over the debris at the Landmark at Lake Village North Apartments in Garland, Texas, as the recovery process begins following tornadoes that hit the area late Saturday night. (Stewart F. House/Getty Images)

As a wave of floods and tornadoes ravaged several midwestern states, leaving much destruction in their wake, Hamodia spoke to residents of the affected areas to gauge the effects of the severe weather on local frum communities.

Sam Jacobs, president of Beth Medrash Hagadol Shaarei Chessed, known as the U. City Shul, said that the three straight days of rain that hit St. Louis had taken a significant toll.

“We’ve had water coming down the steps into the shul basement,” he said. “We have been working since Shabbos to get it out, but more keeps flowing back in.”

Mr. Jacobs said that the Bais Yaakov high school, located in the shul’s basement, had been heavily damaged by flooding, but that tefillos and other functions on the shul’s main levels proceeded as usual. Local pumping companies have been overwhelmed and unable to attend to the site, but he expressed hope that the school would be fully operational by Tuesday.

“It’s not a disaster – just an inconvenience, and we are all doing what we can to deal with it,” said Mr. Jacobs. “As soon as the rain subsides, we should be able to pump out the water and dry out the carpets.”

When asked how he was during an interview for this article, Mr. Avraham Moshe Simon, also of St. Louis, summed up the situation with the response “a little wet.”

He said that his basement, which houses his business as well as a neighborhood playgroup, was flooded, like those of many other area residents.

“It’s been raining nonstop,” said Mr. Simon. “Shabbos was a real downpour. I got soaked going and coming back from shul, and then again on the way to Minchah.”

He said that roads have remained open and accessible.

In Dallas, the tornadoes that destroyed more than 150 homes and claimed 11 lives had residents on alert throughout Shabbos.

Rabbi Yaakov Rich of Dallas’s Congregation Toras Chaim said that residents had been warned of extreme weather in advance, but that tornado sirens over Shabbos came as a surprise.

“At the end of shalosh seudos the sirens started going off. Everybody was wondering where the tornado was heading for, but we didn’t find out until after Shabbos.”

The Rabbi added that while the neighborhoods of Rockwell and Garland, which were hardest hit, were miles from the community, those areas are major business centers and travel hubs.

Rabbi Ezra Sarna, assistant Rabbi of Congregation Ohr HaTorah, also heard sirens while sitting at shalosh seudos, but only heavy wind and rain actually affected the area where his shul is located.

“Father and son learning went on as usual,” he said of the shul’s weekly Motzoei Shabbos program. “Twenty kids showed up, we all got wet, but besides that we were not directly affected. Over Shabbos, everybody who usually comes to shul was there.”