Since August, communities across the Caribbean, Mexico, and the United States have been confronted with several major natural disasters and communal tragedies. Each of these has brought loss of life and broken hearts.
When challenges confront us, we as a community of faith and conscience also give back. Many in our own Hevreh community have asked how we as a community can support the local communities affected by the hurricanes, earthquakes, fires, and mass-shootings. Below is a listing of the different organizations that we would suggest to direct your tzedakah. This list is certainly not exhaustive, and I have done what I can to vet each fund, to assure that as much of your donation goes directly to relief, and not to operational costs.
The Hurricanes Across the Caribbean, Puerto Rico, Texas Gulf Coast, and Florida
Our network of local and international partners serves Jewish community members and all in need quickly, effectively, and with personal care. We fund urgently-needed basics like food and medicine, and long-term needs like trauma counseling.
One hundred percent of funds raised will be used to help those impacted by catastrophic flooding and damage caused by hurricanes in 2017.
To support the Houston Jewish community directly affected by Hurricane Harvey, the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston also has a Relief Fund set up. To better learn about the impact that Harvey has had on the Houston Metropolitan Area, make sure to check out many of the videos that the Federation has set up on their website.
It’s also important to note that we, as a community, made a gift of $30,000 to the Houston Federation to support their relief efforts. This act of tzedakah was made possible because of the generosity of the Barrington Foundation.
I grew up in Houston, and know that my native city is resilient. They will rebuild quickly, but they need help to get there.
Hevreh’s Michael and Beth Nathan both grew up in Puerto Rico. At the time of writing, 80% of Puerto Rico remains without power. Supplies—while they are coming in—are still not enough. The Government of Puerto Rico has set up United for Puerto Rico. United for Puerto Rico is an initiative brought forth by the First lady of Puerto Rico, Mrs. Beatriz Rosselló in collaboration with the private sector, with the purpose of providing aid and support to those affected in Puerto Rico by the passage of Hurricane Irma and Hurricane María.
The Jewish community of Puerto Rico is also collecting funds. The JCC and Shaare Zedeck Synagogue are collecting donations to aid the synagogue and the vulnerable in the community.
The California Wildfires
Camp Newman is the URJ’s flagship California camp. It was destroyed in the recent California wildfires. For many, like our beloved Eisner and Crane Lake Camps, Newman is a sacred place with so many fond memories of childhood. It is also where so many of our reform families send their young people for immersive Jewish summer experiences. Rebuilding the camp will take effort, money, and energy — but it is well worth it.
The reform congregation, Shomrei Torah, in Santa Rosa, CA has also set up a relief fund. Many of their community members have lost their homes or are temporarily displaced from where they live, their offices, schools and places of business.
The Mass Shooting in Las Vegas
Supporting the victims of the mass shooting in Las Vegas has come through two different great organizations: the American Red Cross is supporting the Las Vegas Victims Fund. They are working in lockstep with all state and local officials, GoFundMe, the Direct Impact Fund, and the National Center for Victims of Crime (NCVC) to ensure the funds get distributed directly to the victims and families.
The September Earthquakes in Mexico
This fund is managed by the International Community Foundation. Currently, all contributions to the International Relief Fund will aid in the recovery of the aftermath caused by the magnitude-8.1 earthquake that struck off the coast of Chiapas on Thursday, Sept. 7th. The earthquake— the most powerful to hit the country in a century—was felt as far as Mexico City and Guatemala City, and has caused significant damage and deaths in Oaxaca and Chiapas. ICF is working with local organizations in these regions to cover short term basic needs and longer term reconstruction costs.