Rabbi Canoes Through Floodwaters to Bring Joy to Retiree Couple in Florida
by Bruria Efune – chabad.org
The holiday of Sukkot was coming to an end, but Rabbi Yanky Majesky of Chabad of North Orlando couldn’t shake off the concern he had for John and Marylou Klein, a senior couple who were still trapped in their home, surrounded by dangerous post-hurricane floodwaters.
The Kleins live in Sanford, Florida, in a neighborhood alongside the St John’s River. The river began to flood a few days after Hurricane Ian swept across Southwest Florida on September 28, and filled the street leading to the Kleins’ home with up to 4.5 feet of water. Residents were warned to stay out of the water, as it may be filled with sewage, snakes, and alligators. Weeks later, the water has still not receded—authorities estimate that it may stay until November.
When Hurricane Ian arrived in Rabbi Yanky and Chanshy Majesky’s North Orlando neighborhood, they were left without power for several days, and with minor damage to their Chabad Center and Hebrew School buildings. But otherwise, they and most of their community felt that they had been spared the worst of the storm. Most, not including the Kleins in Sanford.
Majesky had asked John Klein, who had recently celebrated his 80th birthday, if he needed anything, and offered to bring it over to him.
“Rabbi, don’t come,” John told him. “The water is too dangerous. My son goes in a boat to get us groceries, but he wears rubber protective equipment.”
Still, as Rabbi Majesky celebrated Sukkot with his community, he could only think of his friends who were trapped in their home. On the seventh day of Sukkot, the Majesky family held a huge upsherin celebration in honor of the third birthday of their son, Sholly. The dichotomy of having a fantastic time while remembering the hurricane flooding led the rabbi to the conclusion that he must visit John and Marry Lou.
“I temporarily blocked them on Facebook, so that they couldn’t see,” Rabbi Majesky explained. “And then I asked if anyone had a boat or vehicle that could get us up to their home. Geri and Paul Hepburn responded—Geri works in our Chabad House kitchen, and Paul is a former firefighter. They offered to bring me by canoe.”
After a very busy day, with Sukkot coming to an end, Rabbi Majesky grabbed his lulav and esrog, hopped into a car with the Hepburns, canoe on the roof, and arrived at the flooded street.
“We didn’t even have to wade through the water, it was suddenly deep enough to get straight into the canoe, and Paul and I boated right up to their home,” the rabbi told Chabad.org.
A Mitzvah Brings a Place of Refuge
The duo found the Klein family living on the second story of their home. When the river first started overflowing weeks earlier, they had called the rabbi and asked him to quickly bring sandbags to protect their home. Moments later, they called him back to say never mind— any effort would be fruitless. The water rose quickly and flooded the first story of their home.
John and Marylou might not have had where to go, if not for a mitzvah they did years earlier. When Harold, an elderly cousin with special needs, was in need of a home, the Kleins added a second story to their home just for him. Sadly, Harold passed away recently, but, as Marylou said, “Thanks to Harold, we still have where to live.”
Marylou was in tears when Rabbi Majesky arrived. She, John, and their son Joseph shook the lulav and etrog, and then broke out into song and dance, celebrating Sukkot at the very last minute.
Between the mitzvah, and the feelings of care and love, the Klein family finally felt a moment of joy, on the second story of their flooded home.
“I just wanted them to know that they’re not forgotten,” explained the Rabbi. “It’s what the lulav and etrog are all about. Each part of the bundle represents another type of Jew, and we need all of them.”
incredible! The Rebbe’s Shluchim are each one in a million!