We want to provide an update about the Reform Movement’s response to the devastating impact of Hurricane Sandy. As we hope you know, the Union for Reform Judaism has activated our Hurricane Relief Fund, which is providing direct funding to: congregants who are suffering short or long-term loss of food, shelter or clothing; general and Jewish relief agencies in coordination with the Jewish Federations, NECHAMA – the Jewish Response to Disaster and others; and to Reform congregations damaged by the storm to help them resume operations as quickly as possible.
Since the fund was established last Tuesday, October 30, the URJ has collected nearly $200,000 for Hurricane Relief from more than 1,600 donors, including $10,000 each from the Benjamin Slome Charitable Foundation, Congregation Emanu-El of the City of New York, and The Bill and Kirith Prady Foundation.
Donors may choose to give to a general relief fund or to a fund allocated specifically to West End Temple in Neponsit, Queens, as the URJ will be collecting funds on behalf of the synagogue until they have electricity and their online system becomes functional. Funds may also be designated for Scholarships for Youth Impacted by Hurricane Sandy, which will remove some of the financial barriers that might keep displaced teens from attending NFTY or other Reform Movement events with their peers when they need them most. If you know of someone who needs assistance, please have him or her contact Subie Banaszynski.
The first distribution of general relief funds of $7,500 was sent yesterday to North Shore Synagogue in Syosset, Long Island, to provide three meals a day to displaced families. As the scope of the hurricane’s impact becomes clearer, the URJ Emergency Committee, in consultation with congregations in the impacted areas, will allocate additional funds to meet other short, medium and long-term needs of storm victims, congregations and others.
The URJ is partnering with NECHAMA – the Jewish Response to Disaster to galvanize volunteers for on-the-ground clean-up and rebuilding efforts in affected areas of Northern New Jersey. Volunteers can sign up online. The URJ is also working with JVOAD – Jewish Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters to maximize resources and ensure that efforts are not being duplicated.
In addition to collecting funds and referring volunteers, the URJ’s Congregational Network Staff has been reaching out to all congregations affected by the storm and advising congregational leaders on how to best help individual congregants and continue providing services to congregants despite damaged synagogue facilities.
Many Reform congregations have engaged in their own grassroots efforts to galvanize volunteers and raise funds for hurricane relief. For example, Congregation Beth Elohim in Park Slope, Brooklyn, has coordinated hundreds of volunteers to deliver food, clothing, personal hygiene items, cleaning supplies and more to residents in affected areas and at evacuation shelters. Yesterday, volunteers successfully aided in the evacuation of 40 elderly residents in high rise buildings without heat or power just before the latest storm hit the Northeast. CBE’s Rabbi Andy Bachman is providing regular updates on his blog and on the congregation’s Facebook page.
As recovery continues, we pray that our communities will remain safe from harm. We will continue to update you in the coming days and weeks ahead.