June 1st is my son Avi’s second favorite day of the year; with only his birthday ahead of it. As every Floridian knows, June 1st is the first day of hurricane season, and Avi is an amateur meteorologist. For his birthday last year he got a weather station that we installed outside, and the weather readings are sent to a display that we keep in our family room. Avi follows the weather carefully this time of year, especially any disturbances in the Atlantic. Whether invest, tropical wave or tropical depression, you can be sure that we will hear about it over dinner.
The first couple of months of hurricane season are generally quiet in the tropics, lulling some people in to complacency. Even as we are reminded to review our storm plans and check our hurricane supplies, many of us choose to remember the past storm seasons that were quiet, with limited impact on us. This allows us to postpone and delay our preparations and plans.
And then we wake up one morning, like we did last week, and the meteorologists inform us that the storm is headed right at us, and it is gaining strength. That was the case with Hurricane Dorian. At one point the forecast was that Dorian was a Category 4 hurricane and headed right at South Florida. One model showed the storm coming to shore in Miami and then heading North through the tri-county area as a catastrophic hurricane.
It was at that point that people began to notice/ panic. This was evident by the lines at gas stations and the empty shelves at supermarkets and Home Depot stores. Here at shul, we began to implement our shul’s hurricane protocols. The protocols are divided into two categories: building and people. Our building supervisor Luis oversaw the steps we take to protect our shul campus and ensure that we have the supplies needed to function after a storm. We reviewed the 2019 hurricane member survey to see who had indicated they might need help and who volunteered to help. We also created a WhatsApp group chat to allow community members to share any needs/ information they had storm-related. It was heartening to see our community pull together and help each other out: whether it was updating each other on where to find available supplies, to the person who was about to get on a long line to buy himself batteries, and offered to pick up some for anyone else who needed.
Thankfully Dorian remained off shore, leaving our community with minimal impact. Some see all of the preparation and anxiety as a waste of time and energy. I think there are valuable lessons for us to consider. First, a lesson regarding preparation: Prepare early for best results. This is just as true about our spiritual lives as it is about hurricane prep. Rosh Hashanah and the Days of Awe will be upon us in less than a month. Instead of waiting until the very last minute, it is much more effective to engage in a process of reflection and teshuva throughout the month of Elul. Come to one of the special Elul classes. Sign up for my daily Elul Reflection via WhatsApp.
Second, we weather the storm best when we do so together. Worse than being impacted by a storm is thinking that there’s no-one to turn to for help. Our shul is built upon a foundation of chesed. This culture of caring is evident at times of need, like during a hurricane.
This coming week our shul will be launching a 24 hour online matching campaign to purchase security hardware necessary for our shul campus. More information will be sent via e-mail and through social media. The safety of our campus is very important to us. We are hoping for everyone’s participation in this security campaign. Just as with Dorian, synagogue safety and security is best weathered together.