Image: A man rides his bicycle through a storm-damaged road in Toa Alta, west of San Juan, Puerto Rico (Richard Arduengo/AFP/Getty)

The news from Puerto Rico is horrible – a week after Hurricane Maria, the people lack water, food, gas, and power. The mayor of San Juan, Carmen Julín Cruz, appeared today on mainland TV, begging for water and frankly furious at the tangle of bureaucracy.

Many of us watch the news and say, “What can I do?”

Here are some ideas:

  1. CALL your Representative and your Senators in Washington, and ask for a temporary suspension of the Jones Act, officially called the Merchant Marine Act of 1920. According to the New York Times: “Section 27 of this law decreed that only American ships could carry goods and passengers from one United States port to another. In addition, every ship must be built, crewed and owned by American citizens.” In other words, it’s snarling things up for no pressing reason. This will help not only Puerto Rico but also the U.S. Virgin Islands.
  2. SEND CASH to any of several organizations who are organized to help, including:
    1. United for Puerto Rico (organized by the first lady of Puerto Rico)
    2. One America Appeal (organized by the living ex-POTUSes)
    3. Catholic Relief Services
    4. Hispanic Federations “Unidos” Page
    5. ISRAid via Global Giving
    6. Direct Relief (accepts PayPal)
    7. Charity Navigator is a good way to check out charities. They also offer a page of organizations working to assist victims of Hurricane Maria. They also offer a page on charities providing aid to those affected by the earthquakes in Mexico.
  3. VOLUNTEER
    1. Help spread the word about the Jones Act and about places to send cash.
    2. Once things are stabilized on the islands, they will need volunteers for cleanup and rebuilding. The place to follow for that information is Puerto Rico Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD).

Jews traditionally give tzedakah before festivals and holy days. This year the needs are enormous. Let us hope and pray that 5778 will see no more such disasters!

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