Jewish community in India mostly unaffected by deadly floods
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Jewish community in India mostly unaffected by deadly floods

Indian residents cross floodwaters in Kerala, Aug. 20, 2018. (Atul Loke/Getty Images)

(JTA) — The Jewish community in Kerala has largely escaped harm from the deadly floods in the southern Indian state, one member of the community told JTA.

More than 350 people have been killed and over 1 million have been displaced by the floods, which started in June and are the worst the state has experienced in a century. But the small Jewish community is mostly unaffected, said Ofera Elias, who lives in the city of Ernakulam.

The community has about 26 members, most of whom reside in areas that were not flooded, Elias, 56, told JTA on Tuesday. Two members’ houses were flooded; the families found shelter elsewhere.

However, Elias said he was not sure of the fate of the one functioning synagogues because the floods had prevented her and her husband from going there. She said three synagogues that are no longer used by the community for religious services have experienced flooding.

Kerala is home to a historic Jewish community, but most members left for Israel starting in the early 1950s.

On Tuesday, IsrAID dispatched a three-person relief team to the state. The group, assembled from the organization’s team stationed in Nepal since the 2015 earthquake, includes an engineer, project manager and relief specialist, co-CEO Yotam Polizer told JTA.

When the team arrives on Wednesday, it will assess the situation and focus on distributing non-food relief items, including blankets and tents, Polizer said. IsrAID will send additional people later this week and is planning a long-term operation in Kerala to deal with the floods’ aftermath.

The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee joined with the Jewish community of India in providing food and clothing to people affected by the floods. The aid will be provided through its partner organization, the All-India Disaster Mitigation Institute.