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Chabad North Qld provides helping hand

"Between 10 and 20 Jewish families probably have lost their homes, but we don't yet know the exact number, as communications have been out at times."

Rabbi Ari Rubin (left) giving a lift to flood-impacted Cairns residents Myra Gold (right) and Owen Taylor-Ray, on Tuesday.
Rabbi Ari Rubin (left) giving a lift to flood-impacted Cairns residents Myra Gold (right) and Owen Taylor-Ray, on Tuesday.

The worst flooding Cairns has ever experienced has resulted in multiple Jewish families there becoming homeless, due to water and mud damage, loss of basic services and dangerous hazards, including stray crocodiles.

When category two Cyclone Jasper became an almost stationary, monsoon-like tropical low pressure system late last Saturday night, the area copped another 600mm of rain in downpours in 48 hours, until conditions eased.

The city’s airport was closed for days due to inundation, reopening only on Tuesday afternoon.

The hardest hit suburbs were Machans Beachs, Holloways Beach, and Yorkey’s Knob, a short drive north of the city centre.

Rabbi Ari Rubin from Chabad of North Queensland – whose Cairns home is its headquarters – confirmed to The AJN on Tuesday that six Jewish families had flooded homes, and at least two aren’t insured.

“Between 10 and 20 Jewish families probably have lost their homes, but we don’t yet know the exact number, as communications have been out at times.

“We were lucky, as only our fence and a storage shed were damaged, which is nothing compared to others.

“We’ve lived in Cairns for eight years, and never experienced a cyclone before, or rain this intense.”

He and his wife Mushki have been working around the clock since last weekend, reaching out to the close-knit Cairns Jewish community, via calls, WhatsApp and the Chabad North Queensland Facebook site.

They’ve been connecting impacted families with others who can help with packing and cleaning, or who can donate funds, clothing, and non-perishable food.

They’ve also been driving around town to collect people in need, and offer them assistance.

When The AJN phoned Rabbi Rubin, he had just given a lift to Machans Beach resident and grandmother Myra Gold, who is living with a friend, due to water damage making her home unliveable.

Gold estimates she will be homeless for three months or more, and is looking for temporary accommodation that will be covered by her insurance company.

Despite the situation she is in, she commented on Facebook that she is keen to make a donation to help other Jewish people impacted by the floods.

Also at the Rubins’ place when The AJN phoned was family of five, the Taylor-Rays, who lost the home they rent in Yorkey’s Knob, in chaotic circumstances.

When handed the phone, Pamela Taylor-Ray said, “We were woken up on Sunday morning by a call to evacuate, but it was too late for us, as floodwaters surrounded us.

“The streets were flooded, and my husband saw a five-foot [1.5-metre] crocodile chewing on a fish in our garage!

“The SES volunteers were great, and took us in two little canoes to the main road, then by 4WD to the shopping centre, and finally a yacht club, where we met a patron called Michael, who incredibly offered us temporary accommodation in his granny flat, for free,” she said.

Taylor-Ray – who has mostly called Cairns home since 2001, but never witnessed homes being inundated – had phoned the Rubins, who promptly invited her family to their place, and gave their children donated clothing.

“The Jewish community up here is wonderful, and mostly know one another.

“It’s funny, one of the possessions I managed to save were my tichels [Jewish head coverings for women],” she said.

“Even though we’re currently homeless, and we’ll have to replace our car too, as long as all five of us are safe – which we are – we are going to be okay, and get through this.”

HOW TO HELP

Chabad of North Queensland is partnering with JCare QLD and the Queensland Jewish Board of Deputies, to provide assistance to Jewish families in need in the Cairns region, through the Cairns Jewish Community Flood Appeal.

If you’d like to offer your assistance through this appeal, email Paul.Myers@qjbd.org

If you are impacted by the flood, and would like to talk to someone, phone 0424 335 969 or email jcareqld@gmail.com

Rabbi Rubin said he can also be contacted on 0435 867 477.

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