As a succession of disasters strike, Jewish relief organizations struggle to raise enough funds to respond.
Almost four years after the 2004 tsunami in South Asia, one of the deadliest natural disasters in history, relief and rebuilding efforts in the affected areas are far from over.
But in the years since, disasters and crises in other areas of the world have also demanded attention and humanitarian aid, including the cyclone in Burma and the earthquake in Sichuan, China, both of which hit in May of this year, and more recently the war in South Ossetia, Georgia. Add to that the damage on U.S. soil from a succession of tropical storms and hurricanes.
JERUSALEM — When northerners holed up in bomb shelters needed food during the recent war between Israel and Hezbollah, local municipalities contacted non-profit organizations, which in turn delivered the food at their own expense. Numerous other organizations and individuals delivered everything from medications and toys to the northerners, most of whom had fled to the hot, neglected shelters with little more than the clothes on their backs.
When Katyusha rockets began falling on Northern Israel in July, Anne Lanski, one of the main organizers of a Chicago program pairing Chicago and Israeli teens, hastily made plans to relocate her group of 45 from the Galilee to central Israel.
Eight years after the Twin Towers crumbled over downtown Manhattan, rescue worker Charlie Giles still wakes up regularly with nightmares of the North Tower collapsing on top of him, enveloping his body his flames and in suffocating debris. One night recently, he even woke up to find himself throwing things.
“I said to my wife, ‘He’s in our room, he’s in our room,’” Giles remembers. “She said, ‘Who’s in our room?’ I said, ‘bin Laden.’”
For a mitzvah project leading up to her bat mitzvah three years ago at Temple B’nai Sholom in Rockville Centre, L.I., Jenna Talesnick crocheted baby blankets for those in need. She liked helping others so much that it has now become a big part of her life.
In her search for other projects, Talesnick learned of the Snack Wrap Program run by Rock and Wrap it Up!, a national, independent anti-poverty think tank based in Cedarhurst, L.I.
It wasn’t just about the money. That’s what Idit Klein says about the initial $1,000 grant she received from the Bronfman Youth Fellowships’ Alumni Venture Fund in 2004. Klein, the executive director of Keshet, a nonprofit that champions the inclusion of LGBTs within the Jewish community, used the small seed grant to mount an educational campaign centered on marriage equality.
In meeting with Conservative rabbis from across the country who were ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary, its chancellor, Arnold Eisen, found the “overwhelming majority” had been inadequately trained in pastoral care.
At the same time, Eisen said, the rabbis said it was the “most rewarding part of their jobs — dealing with people at times of stress, end of life and serious illness.”
“Rabbinical students who got this training said it was the most meaningful part of their education,” he said.
The initial news reports were staggering. Hadassah, and many other Jewish charities, had invested with the arch-thief Bernard Madoff. Whatever they put in, whatever they thought they had, it was all gone in the biggest fraud in history.