Volunteers stream in to hurricane-affected areas

ZAKA, which is known for recovering bodies in Israel after terrorist attacks, is using its expertise in New Orleans. Volunteers are traveling the flooded city by boat, finding and evacuating bodies. Already, ZAKA has reportedly found the bodies of two Jews.

Chabad teams are also in the area, assisting with the evacuation. Chabad rescue teams have already rescued 35 individuals, mostly elderly. The teams are equipped with satellite radios and phones, chainsaws and axes. Chabad is also planning to deploy yeshiva students to visit communities in southern Mississippi.

Families are contacting local Chabad centers to try and locate family members that may still be in New Orleans. Yesterday, a Chabad team got into the house of Rabbi Rivkin in New Orleans to procure his list of Jewish households in the area.

Chabad is also formulating post-recovery plans for Jewish communities that are hosting large numbers of evacuees from the New Orleans Jewish community.

The Birmingham Jewish Federation reports that several Jewish Family Services from across the country have offered to send volunteers to help provide counseling and support services. The Federation issued an initial grant of $25,000 to Collat Jewish Family Services to begin funding the agency’s activities. Michelle Bearman-Wolnek has been hired as disaster relief coordinator for CJFS.

The Federation and CJFS took part in a meeting of over 50 Birmingham agencies at United Way headquarters, coordinating response services.