Chabad scrambles to provide stranded families shelter during coronavirus


by Staff Writer

March 22, 2020

To stay? To leave?

Panic swept residents of Zagreb Sunday morning when, while sheltering at home from the coronavirus, a 5.3 magnitude earthquakethe largest in 140 yearsstruck Croatia's capital city. Tremors shook the Chabad House. Rabbi Pini and Raizy Zaklas, Chabad representatives to Croatia, raced out at 6:45 a.m. with their six children, to survey the damage. 

“The scene was frightening,” Raizy told “Clouds of dust from the shattered concrete rose up on rooftops, shattered buildings, broken windows and debris lay everywhere.”

Then the calls came pouring in. “There’s a terrible state of panic here,” Rabbi Zaklas said in a Sunday morning phone conversation with One woman whose roof collapsed, ran from her house to her car with her children. Speaking through sobs, she called the rabbi. “I am now in the car with my children, and would be grateful if I could come stay with them for a day or two at Chabad.” 

Fortunately, the newly renovated Chabad House structure was not damaged. “We’ve placed two families with children on different floors of our Chabad House so that they can be safe during this time of social distancing,” explained the rabbi. But many more who are stranded have turned to the Zaklases, who are scrambling for solutions to provide at least 25 families with a safe place to stay. 

“We are doing everything we possibly can to help all those whose homes are not livable,” Zaklas told “The coronavirus is making this especially challenging, as we cannot put a lot of people together, and we don’t know when they will be able return to their homes.”

Adding to the fear and panic, said Raizy, is that “people here are really poor. They don’t have the means to move house, or to undertake the kinds of costly repairs that their damaged apartments will require to make them livable again.” 

Chabad of Croatia is launching a charity fund to help this effort:

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