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September 22, 2005 - Image 30

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2005-09-22

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Rabbi Mendel Druk carries a Torah to safe from a Sephardic synagogue in
New Orleans.

Enrich your life with the many supports
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Hurricane Help

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ago ue

Former Oak Park Chabad rabbi
comes to the rescue in New Orleans.


Story Development Editor

abbi Mendel Druk, a former
Oak Parker now living in
New York City, has seen
more than his share of natural disas-
When the tsunami struck late last
December, Druk was in Thailand
helping to find survivors and assisting
Jews in need. Now he's spent time in
New Orleans, representing Chabad
and ensuring that the Jewish dead are
treated according to Jewish law and
that Jewish survivors have health care,
kosher food and a place to go.
Rabbi Druk is the son of Rabbi
Shimon and Chaya Druk of Oak Park
and a graduate of Yeshivas Lubavitch.
He now lives in Crown Heights and
considers himself a "freelancer." "I go
wherever they need me," he said.
He went to Baton Rouge on Aug. 5
with his partner, Rabbi Levi Shmotkin,
and set up operations in an apartment.
Two teams went into New Orleans
daily. One dealt with search and res-
cue, the other went to shelters to dole
out clothing and several thousand

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kosher MREs (meals ready to eat).
"At one shelter, a few Muslims came
to ask about kosher food [because of
their dietary laws,]" he said. "They
ended up eating halal."
One of the most difficult tasks was
cutting through the red tape with
FEMA and the military, he says. But
once officials understood their mis-
sion, to find Jewish dead and get them
quickly to burial, things went more
smoothly. The teams frequently had
armed military escort.
Dr. Edward Gluck of New York
City, a rabbi who works with New
York's medical examiner, helped
locate Jewish bodies, which often
were badly decomposed and difficult
to identify.
Medical teams already working in
the area had been cutting off a bone, if
need be, to obtain identification. This
is against Jewish law. Rabbi Gluck sug-
gested instead that rescuers take finger-
prints and send them by computer to
the FBI for quick identification.
"They changed their policy of how
they work with us," Rabbi Druk said.
Although they initially thought there
were more Jewish dead, the team

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