FEATURESeptember 2023

Maui Jews Find Solace


In the heart of Maui, nestled between rolling hills and azure waters, lies the tranquil haven of Maui Kosher Farms. It isn’t just a farm but a refuge where people seek solace and connection with nature. Amidst the tropical green flora, a diverse community has found its home. Jews seeking inspiration and spirituality have arrived from Israel and other parts of the world to work in agriculture and with animals.

Rabbi Zirkind, with a passion for sustainability, tends to the land with care, fostering an environment where people and the earth can thrive harmoniously. But he is always prepared. He has eight chest freezers where he stores kosher meat and chicken. Fuel canisters are always full.

Through the years, people have said, “Mendel is always ready for a disaster.” On August 18, the last two fire victims staying at Maui Kosher Farms left the farm.

A week before, on August 10, Rabbi Mendel and his wife Chana had 45 people sleeping on their farm in tents, makeshift beds, sleeping bags, and in their cars. Little did the Zirkinds know when they opened their farm six years prior, that it would become a refuge for the Jews and non-Jews of Maui.

Boris Gladshtein of Makena IT Group, a Maui resident and friend of L’CHAIM Magazine, related that on Tuesday, August 8, he was working and saw that all his routers had disconnected. The next day, he went to Lahaina and ran into tourists who said the road was closed due to high winds and downed electrical poles. By 6 a.m. on August 10, Lahaina was burning down. Gladshtein lost two dozen stores and 30 clients.

Because the electrical power had cut off, the water was off. The sirens didn’t turn on. The Internet was down because Internet lines had burnt. Cell phones could not operate. No one could call for help. There was no reception, leaving the area of Lahaina cut off completely. Three and four-story buildings collapsed.

Complete chaos ensued, according to Gladshtein.

The Israeli contingent in Maui is close-knit and integrated into the Hawaiian community. Many families, including Israelis, lost homes, boats, businesses, passports, jewelry, documents, family photos and more. Even metal safes and their contents burnt. Despite over 100 deaths, no Jews perished.

Knowing that Rabbi Zirkind was always prepared, people headed out to the Farm. Jews and non-Jews, citizens and tourists found refuge at Rabbi and Chana Zirkind’s farm.

“My sister Chana and my brother-in-law Mendel immediately saw what was needed and jumped into action. The summer camp girls there for three weeks were eager to help and did whatever they could to prepare the farm for fire refugees,” Bluma Rubenfeld of Chabad of Poway related.

As a cancer survivor, Chana’s dream has always been to have a place of refuge for those who would seek peace, comfort, and hope. Mendel had always dreamed to be a farmer; to plant, harvest and care for animals. The dream came true when Chabad offered the couple a place in Maui to do outreach work, known as Shlichut.

Six years have passed since the Zirkinds moved to Maui, and the farm continues to thrive. It has become more than just a refuge; it is a testament to the resilience of nature and the human spirit. Visitors come seeking peace, rejuvenation, and a sense of belonging. Maui Kosher Farms remains a place where the rhythm of life is felt deeply, where people and the land share an unbreakable bond—a haven forever etched in their hearts. Most recently, Maui Kosher Farms was a refuge from the flames.

If you are able to help victims in Maui, visit mauikosherfarm.com/fire.


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