How Charlie Crist, Ernest Hooper and a Nice Jewish Couple Saved Florida from Tropical Storm Isaac

Now that Tropical Storm has, relatively speaking, spared Florida, does former Governor Charlie Crist deserve at least some of the credit?

Now that Tropical Storm has, relatively speaking, spared Florida, does former Gov. Charlie Crist deserve at least some of the credit?

Each year as governor, Crist either personally placed or had a friend place prayers in Jerusalem’s Western Wall asking God to protect Florida from hurricanes.

No major hurricanes hit the state during Crist’s time in office.

Last year, when Hurricane Irene threatened the state then veered away, some Floridians wondered whether they should thank God and Crist for their good fortune.

In 2011, Crist asked Patrick Murphy, a Democrat challenging Republican Congressman Allen West, for help during Murphy’s trip to Israel. Crist said then, “I said ‘You can do me and Florida a big favor if you can take a prayer to the wall and ask God to protect beautiful Florida.’ ”

When Tropical Storm Isaac appeared to be heading toward Florida, some Crist loyalists, such as myself, wondered if the state’s good fortune had run out because Crist was not able to have a prayer placed at the Western Wall.

It turns out, Charlie Crist was able to have his prayer delivered.

The Tampa Bay Times’ Ernest Hooper mentioned in his column that Crist was looking for an emissary to place his prayer in the Wall.

Risa Demers of Trinity read the column that morning. Knowing she and her husband Bill were flying to Israel in a about a week, she volunteered.

I sent the email right after reading the column because I had to go to work soon. Then I took my dog for a walk and when I came back in the house, the phone was ringing and it was Charlie Crist,” Demers said. She and her husband are active members of Cong regation B’nai Emmunah in Tarpon Springs.

“When he asked if we would take the prayer to the Wall, I said sure and he said he would write it and mail it that morning. We got it in the mail the next day,” Demers said.

This year’s prayer is very similar to the first. It reads: “Dear God, please protect Florida from storms and other challenges. In your name we pray. Charlie.”

“It was wonderful,” Crist said. “I got tons of emails from people willing to take the prayer. They [the Demers] graciously agreed to do so. It is wonderful because we are coming into the throes of the hurricane season.”

Crist said some folks offered to deliver the prayer if he paid their airfare. “If I was going to do that, I would have just gone myself,” he quipped.

Crist said the Demers were the first to volunteer who said they would be going soon, so he called them and enjoyed his chat with Demers.

 She told him that she and her husband were going to visit their son, Greg, “who is a Lone Soldier” in the Israel Defense Forces.

Lone Soldiers are those with no immediate family in Israel. Demers said her son is in a combat unit stationed along the West Bank near Ramallah and has three more months to go on an 18-month term in the IDF. This will be the third time his parents have gone to visit him since be signed up.

“He went over [to Israel] on a Birthright scholarship and decided he wanted to commit some time to serving over there. Once you are there, you feel the strong relationship with the country … once you are there, you feel you belong,” she said. “He said for the first time, he did not feel he was in a minority.”

When their son told them of his desire to serve, she says she told him he had to finish college first. He earned a legal studies degree at the University of Central Florida, then went to serve. He is hoping to go to law school at the University of Florida when he returns to the U.S., she said.

Crist said he was impressed by the Demers and their son and is glad they will be delivering the prayer.

Risa Demers said they would fly out on July 24, meet their son in Jerusalem on the 25th and deliver the prayer to the Wall the same day. “I just hope we don’t get a hurricane before the 25th, or people might blame it on us,” she said.

In Hooper’s column, he noted that Crist said he is not taking credit for the lack of storms in Florida. “I give that to God,” Crist said. “But it’s nice.”

Material from Bob Fyer was cross-posted with generous permission of the Pinellas Jewish Press.

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