The Jewish community of Jackson, Miss., is seeking assistance to deal with the influx of evacuees in that community.

Rabbi Valerie Cohen of Beth Israel Congregation, the only synagogue in Jackson, noted that they are only 3 hours from New Orleans and the Mississippi coast, “putting us on the front line of hurricane disaster relief.” The population of Jackson has at least doubled, from 350,000 to over 700,000. Cohen said “Gasoline is impossible to get, the grocery stores are depleted, real estate is disappearing. Our schools, public and private, are in crisis in attempts to meet the increased needs of the thousands of children who have sought shelter here.”

The entire city had been in the dark after the hurricane; the synagogue regained its power and phone service last Thursday.

Currently, Cohen knows of 78 displaced Jews that are in the Jackson area, and feels there are many more. “These people have lost everything. Some only have two or three sets of clothing. They believed they could return to their homes in two or three days. Some were away from home when the hurricane hit and never even had a chance to gather their possessions or important documents from their homes.”

She added, “Although many of these displaced persons are living in the homes of relatives or friends, that can’t go on forever. Our congregants who are housing people are spending way beyond their household budgets to care for friends and family.” She urges assistance in the form of emergency financial assistance, so these families can get items like clothing, toiletries, school supplies. “We are working on longer-term issues such as housing, furniture and household needs.”

The Jackson Jewish Welfare Fund is working to assist Jewish evacuees, as well as the needs of the entire area. According to regional NETWORK director Richard Klein, assistance can be made directly to Jackson or to UJC, which is providing Jackson with an allocation.