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October 9, 2015 | 26th Tishrei 5776

Some people have raised questions regarding the UAHC's decision to ask its member congregations to raise money for Kosovar refugee relief in our own name. You will recall that originally, we asked that any moneys raised be sent directly to the JDC; early this week, however, we asked that the moneys be sent to the UAHC. Why the change?

1. We have been inundated with requests from rabbis and congregants, asking what they can do to be helpful. Many of our people apparently expect us to take a visible role in the current emergency, and the indication is that they will be more responsive to a plea that comes from "inside the family." Some have asked why, if we responded as we did to Hurricane Mitch, we were now "passing the buck."

2. It is possible that the many calls we've had on this matter were stimulated by the fact that ADL, the American Jewish Committee, and any number of local federations, have all taken ads in both national and local newspapers asking that refugee relief moneys be sent directly to them.

3. In an ideal world, the JDC would be the sole agency collecting funds under these kinds of circumstances. Indeed, the UAHC is a proud signatory to an ad that JDC will be placing in the coming days, an ad signed by some 37 organizations. Moreover, we anticipate that the bulk of the moneys we raise will in fact be forwarded to JDC, which is working in close cooperation with the International Rescue Committee. But - again - if, as seems to be the case, significant numbers of people are more comfortable making out their checks to the UAHC, then we are certainly prepared to encourage them.

4. Emphatically: Not a penny of what we raise will be spent either on overhead or on subsidizing the trip to Albania and Macedonia we are planning. All the moneys we collect will be handed over to effective agencies that are conducting relief operation in the region - the bulk, as noted above, to JDC.

5. Some, perhaps many, of our congregations - this crisis is unfolding so rapidly that we have no estimate of the number - are already deeply engaged in projects of one sort or another that relate to the matter at hand. The UAHC effort is in no way, shape, or form intended to divert or interrupt their activities. We are all heartsick about what is happening, and all the efforts to respond are praiseworthy.

6. When this crisis has passed, we will re-examine our role in responding to disasters. Plainly, we are not ourselves a relief agency; we can function in these kinds of cases only as an intermediary. Our own competence is in assessing which relief agencies are doing the most effective work. Should we take the lead in seeking cross-institutional agreement among the major Jewish institutions? Should we continue to respond as a Reform Movement, providing our congregants a familiar and trusted address? Should we devise some other strategy? The gravity and urgency of the Kosovo crisis does not permit us the luxury of a reflective examination of these issues at this time.

7. The two or three leaders of our movement who will be going to the region are going there so that they will be able to offer eye-witness accounts on their return - and, not incidentally, to assert visibly the abiding concern of our movement and of the Jewish people in general for victims, of whatever faith, of brutality and cruelty.


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