Union for Reform Judaism Announces Jacobs Ladder Project To Coordinate Aid for Victims of Hurricane Katrina
Vacant Mississippi Warehouse Will Serve as Staging and Distribution Area for Relief Supplies
NEW YORK, September 8The Union for Reform Judaism announced today the start of Jacobs Ladder,' a project that will enable the Union to effectively collect, organize and distribute thousands of dollars worth of goods and supplies flowing from Reform Jewish congregations nationwide to the victims of Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast.
The Union will stock supplies in a 24,000-square-foot vacant warehouse in Utica, MS, close to the Unions Henry S. Jacobs Camp. On September 6, the Utica city council voted unanimously to allow the Union to use this facility as a staging and distribution area, and to waive the cost of utilities to the building. Volunteers from the Utica area as well as from congregations throughout North America will participate in this historic effort.
The Union for Reform Judaism has never before undertaken a project like this but there has never before been a natural disaster as devastating as Hurricane Katrina, said Rabbi Daniel Freelander, vice-president of the Union, who will be in Mississippi Friday to help launch the project. When one American is in pain, the entire American Jewish community is in pain. We are part of the fabric of this country, and our Jewish obligation is to mend that fabric when it tears.
Jacobs Ladder was established to respond to the hundreds of offers of food and supplies that poured in to Union headquarters from Reform Jews across North America in the aftermath of the hurricane. The Unions 14 regional offices, located throughout the United States and Canada, will coordinate donations through individual congregations and ship them to Mississippi. After sorting and stocking these donations, the Union will then turn them over to relief services, which will distribute them among evacuees from Mississippi and New Orleans who have made it to the area around Jackson, MS a city which has doubled in size since the onset of Hurricane Katrina.
Currently, the Union is accepting donations of supplies including bottled water, diapers, non-perishable foodstuffs, hygiene products, medical supplies and new blankets.
Jacobs Ladder is one of several disaster relief initiatives undertaken by the Union. More than $1 million has already been donated to the Unions Disaster Relief Fund, and the Unions Jacobs Camp has housed Katrina evacuees since Sunday, August 28.
Jonathan Cohen, Director of Jacobs Camp, conceived the idea of using the vacant warehouse as a staging area, and worked closely with Utica officials to make sure the plan became a reality. If people have the resources and the desire to give to the victims of the hurricane, then we have a responsibility to make sure their donations, said Cohen.
The Union for Reform Judaism (formerly the Union of American Hebrew Congregations) is the central body of Reform Judaism in North America, uniting 1.5 million Reform Jews in more than 900 synagogues. Union services include camps, music and book publishing, outreach to unaffiliated and intermarried Jews, educational programs, and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism in Washington, DC.