Many in New Orleans’ Jewish community are in Houston, which is the new staging area for the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans. According to Lee Wunsch, Chief Executive Officer of the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston, there has been a tremendous response from around the country.
He writes that the main thing people can do from elsewhere is send money. The agency is not set up to accept food or clothing donations. He noted an immediate need for $1 million to assist with the interfaith feeding program for the tens of thousands of Louisianans that are now in the area, just for the next month.
He added that most evacuees are likely to find temporary housing within 300 miles of New Orleans, rather than across the country.
Institute of Southern Jewish Life responds
The Jackson-based Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life, which oversees services to Jewish communities in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas, is mobilizing in response to the hurricane.
According to Macy Hart, executive director of ISJL, there have been calls from across the country. Because the effort is still in response and rescue, the needs assessments have not been fully developed.
The ISJL is uniquely positioned to assist the small communities throughout the area, and has set up the Katrina Relief Fund. The funds raised will go directly to the communities affected, and Hart said 100 percent will go directly to them; the Institute will not charge any administrative costs to the fund.
“Due to our strategic geographic location and contacts throughout the United States, we gladly take on this role of assistance,” Hart said. The Institute will also advise national organizations on who to contact in these communities for distribution of funds raised.
The ISJL can be reached at (601) 362-6357, or www.isjl.org.
Collat Jewish Family Services in Birmingham is starting an initiative to resettle evacuees from the New Orleans Jewish community. Already, about 60 have resettled in the area, temporarily or permanently. A support group will begin in the coming week.
The Birmingham Jewish Federation is also raising money for the relief effort. Half will go to the national United Jewish Communities drive, while the other half wil help CJFS with its emergency relief on a local level.
The Birmingham Jewish Federation can be reached at (205) 805-1513, and CJFS can be reached at (205) 879-3438.
Baton Rouge congregation seeks help for survivors
Temple B’nai Israel in Baton Rouge will be opening its doors to assist hundreds of people who are homeless. According to the congregation, they need clothing and baby items. Packages or funds can be sent to Rabbi Weinstein, 3354 Kleinart Ave., Baton Rouge, LA 70806, or call (225) 343-0111.
Assistance in Atlanta
The Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta is working on numerous avenues to assist Katrina evacuees. The Jewish Family Services is working on job placement, counseling, medical, financial and relocation needs. The Atlanta Rabbinical Council is coordinating with area synagogues and working with the Marcus Jewish Community Center’s Housemate Match program.
Atlanta’s Jewish Day Schools are accepting students from New Orleans, as is the MJCCA’s preschool. Camps Barney, Coleman and Ramah Darom are offering their sites as shelters, as has the Cohen Home and the Congregation Shearith Israel Shelter.
Ahavath Achim in Atlanta is already planning to host the upcoming Bat Mitzvah of a New Orleans family, while many congregations are discussing distribution of High Holy Day tickets to evacuees.
Israeli universites offer classes
The Jewish Agency for Israel and MASA Gateway to Israel Programs said that five Israeli universities are offering accelerated and simplified acceptance procedures for all students in need. Jewish students accepted into the program are eligible for MASA scholarships, and a grant is being arranged for plane fare to Israel and partial tuition costs. A special Ulpan will be formed, and credits are expected to be transferable.
Those who are interested should contact Rachel Brown, Israel Programs Coordinator, at (212) 339-6903, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
High Holy Day thought
For several years, we at DSJV have spent the first day of Rosh Hashanah at a small congregation in the region that normally has only 20 to 30 people for services, such as in Greenwood or Natchez, Miss., or Selma, Ala. They are pleased to see any visitor who can bolster their numbers, and obviously do not require tickets. Any evacuee who is looking for a different High Holy Day experience might want to explore such options.
Of course, congregations of all sizes throughout the region are opening their doors for the High Holy Days. We’ll post details as they become available.