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August 28, 2015 | 13th Elul 5775
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Union Distributes $1 Million in Hurricane Relief

Union for Reform Judaism Distributes $565,000 in Disaster Relief Funds

Close to $2 million Raised To Date

NEW YORK, SEPT 16 -- The Union for Reform Judaism announced today $565,000 in grants to disaster relief agencies, Jewish agencies and Reform synagogues that have been in the forefront of relief efforts. They are the first distribution of funds in the close to $2 million donated to its disaster relief fund in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

“The response to our appeal has been overwhelming,” said Rabbi Lennard R. Thal, senior vice president and director of development for the Union. “Jews across America are opening their wallets, their homes and their hearts to the people of New Orleans and Mississippi.”

In addition to the funds collected through the disaster relief fund, the Union is encouraging the 1.5 million Reform Jews in the United States and Canada to participate in other relief activities. This week it launched Jacobs Ladder: A Relief Project of the Union for Reform Judaism at the Henry S. Jacobs Camp in Utica, MS. Working in partnership with the town of Utica, the Union and Jacobs Camp are operating a staging and distribution center for relief supplies from a warehouse provided by the city. The center is collecting supplies (preferably shrink wrapped and palletized) and distributing them through a number of local and regional ministries and relief centers that serve the greater Jackson community, the population of which has doubled since the storm.

The following donations from the Hurricane Disaster Relief Fund have been made (See below the listing for full descriptions):

Hurricane Relief Funding: $520,000

Reform Congregation mini-grants: $45,000



United Jewish Communities – $150,000
The Mayor of Houston has called upon the faith community to reach deep into their hearts and their pockets to raise the funds necessary to provide thousands of evacuees with three meals per day. The Jewish community, through the Jewish Community Federation of Houston, is joining its counterparts in pledging up to $1 million to the effort. The Union for Reform Judaism has contributed $150,000 toward this national commitment by the American Jewish community. 

Jacobs' Ladder: A Project of the Union for Reform Judaism - $125,000
The need for food and other daily necessities is overwhelming. And so, as Reform Jews, we have no choice but to respond and help. Jacobs' Ladder: A Relief Project of the Union for Reform Judaism is a vital new part of our response. Reform Jews across North America are collecting food and supplies and shipping them to the Union’s Henry S. Jacobs Camp in Utica, MS.

Working in partnership with the town of Utica, the Union and Jacobs Camp are operating a staging and distribution center for relief supplies from a warehouse provided by the city. The center is collecting supplies and distributing them through a number of local and regional ministries and relief centers that serve the greater Jackson community, the population of which has doubled with displaced families since the storm. For more information, go to 

Enterprise Corporation of the Delta ( - $30,000
The Enterprise Corporation of the Delta is a not-for-profit community development financial institution that builds assets, strengthens lives and improves the quality of life in distressed Mid South communities. Through the ECD Hurricane Katrina Relief Fund, Enterprise Corporation of the Delta/ Hope Community Credit Union (ECD/HOPE) is participating in the immediate and the long-term storm recovery efforts in Louisiana and Mississippi.Initially, donated funds will be routed to community partners who are providing food, clothing and shelter for those in Louisiana and Mississippi who were displaced by the storm. As these basic needs lessen, funds will support payment deferrals, provide down payment assistance, establish loss reserves, and otherwise extend a bridge to those recovering from this tragedy. In this role, ECD/HOPE will build on twelve years of experience in strengthening distressed areas to help residents rebuild their lives, homes, businesses and communities.

American Friends Service Committee ( - $30,000
The American Friends Service Committee is a Quaker organization that includes people of various faiths who are committed to social justice, peace and humanitarian service. It has already allocated $1 million towards hurricane relief efforts and has activated its emergency response team to assess critical needs in the region and to determine the most effective and efficient methods of service delivery. Staff in the southeastern region will coordinate with Friends organizations and other groups in the area.AFSC has extensive experience in disaster relief efforts, including aid to immigrant farm and nursery workers, and decent housing for low-income residents in South Florida after Hurricane Andrew, and Long-term recovery and development projects for flood disaster victims and rural farmers in Iowa. Last year, the URJ has supported AFSC relief efforts in Haiti following Hurricane Jeanne last September.

America’s Second Harvest ( - $30,000
America's Second Harvest—The Nation’s Food Bank Network is the largest domestic hunger-relief organization in the United States. Today, the national Network secures and distributes nearly two billion pounds of food and grocery products to more than 200 regional food banks and food-rescue organizations in all 50 states. As of noon on Monday, September 5, America’s Second Harvest had already dispatched nearly 200 Semi truckloads carrying disaster relief food and grocery products. A total of 6.4 million Pounds of food and grocery have been delivered, the equivalent of more than 5 million meals.

Direct Relief International ( - $30,000
Direct Relief International is a non-profit, non-sectarian humanitarian assistance that for 56 years has provided medical material assistance in the form of pharmaceuticals, supplies, and new and refurbished medical equipment to over 3,000 charitable health facilities worldwide and within the United States. In 2004, the organization provided more than $122 million (wholesale value) in medicines, supplies and equipment to health projects in 54 countries, enough provisions to keep hundreds of local health professionals and clinics productively engaged and provide full courses of medical treatment for over 20 million people.

Direct Relief International is partnering with community and free clinics in the hurricane affected areas to provide medical assistance with an initial $250,000 in cash, and access to medical inventories valued at nearly $35 million (wholesale). The Union has also supported Direct Relief International’s Tsunami relief efforts.

International Medical Corps ( - $30,000
IMC is a global humanitarian nonprofit organization dedicated to saving lives and relieving suffering through health care training and medical relief programs. Last week, IMC sent a team of public health experts with experience in responding to international emergency and disaster situations to Baton Rouge, Louisiana. It is currently preparing to provide counseling and psycho-social services to those affected by the hurricane – an area in which it has extensive experience. IMC is also partnering with organizations like America’s Second Harvest to integrate its programs into existing shelter and feeding efforts.International Medical Corps is also a URJ partner in Tsunami Relief and Sudan Relief.

Mercy Corps ( - $30,000
Mercy Corps is a non-sectarian development organization dedicated to alleviating suffering, poverty, and oppression by helping people build secure, productive, and just communities. In the coming weeks and months, Mercy Corps will focus on four strategic program areas:

  • Emergency Relief: Mercy Corps will provide critical financial, technical and material aid support to survivors of the disaster. This includes provision of shelter, food, water, sanitation and health care to displaced populations. Emergency relief will be provided in coordination with the efforts of other relief organizations.
  • Community Mobilization: Participation of local communities in their own recovery and rebuilding process is critical for the long term success and sustainability of a program. This is also critical in overcoming psychosocial trauma and beginning to rebuild the bonds of community. Mercy Corps will work with local groups to support their own rebuilding and recovery process in geographic areas where this is possible.
  • Psychosocial Programs: The effect of a disaster like Hurricane Katrina can have a lasting traumatic impact on the survivors, especially children. Children in particular are vulnerable to trauma, as it is more difficult for them to make sense of what happened. Mercy Corps will support psychosocial programs that help the survivors overcome their trauma, with a special emphasis on children. We will work with schools, daycare centers, children’s service agencies and other local groups to provide appropriate psychosocial support to children. We will focus on activities that restore healthy activities and routines for children, as well as ways to engage the children themselves in the planning and implementation of programs.
  • Economic Recovery: Mercy Corps will work with local groups to help poor families rebuild their livelihoods. These programs will include helping people rebuild their businesses, create employment and earn income. The quicker families can get back on their feet economically and become independent, the quicker their communities will get back to normal. 

    Mercy Corps is also a URJ partner in Tsunami Relief and Sudan Relief.

Oxfam America ( - $30,000
Oxfam America is a development and relief agency that works with local partners to help people escape poverty. Oxfam America’s domestic work focuses on the rural poor, especially African Americans, Native Americans, women, and immigrants.Oxfam is concerned that some of the region’s poorest residents, particularly those in rural areas of Louisiana and Mississippi, may be bypassed by much of the relief and recovery effort. Katrina has devastated many people in rural communities—especially African-American farmers, migrant farm workers, and immigrant dock workers. These are communities with some of the most profound and entrenched poverty in the nation. The hurricane ripped roofs off houses, knocked out power, blocked roads, and flattened farmers’ fields, leaving already-marginalized people homeless and with no means to support themselves. These communities’ vulnerability to Katrina’s destructive effects—reflected in the location and construction of their homes, their inability to escape from the storm’s path, and their limited resources—puts them similarly at risk of being ignored or disenfranchised during the recovery phase. Many are now without potable water, or diesel fuel to run their farm equipment. In some cases, the markets where they sold their produce have been obliterated.

For 15 years, Oxfam America has worked on economic and community development in coastal Mississippi and Louisiana and the Mississippi Delta through the partner organizations we are now supporting with these emergency grants. Over the weekend, Oxfam distributed food, supplies, and electric generators to two congregations in east Biloxi, Mississippi, that are providing up to 1,000 meals a day and sheltering up to 200 people a night. A $30,000 grant to Voices of Hope, a local housing organization, will enable homeowners to obtain $200 vouchers to buy materials needed to make their homes watertight before another storm passes through.

Baton Rouge Area Foundation - $20,000
For over 40 years, the Baton Rouge Area Foundation has united human and financial resources to enhance the quality of life in Louisiana’s capital region. The Hurricane Katrina Displaced Residents Fund will benefit those individuals evacuated to Baton Rouge from the hurricane impacted areas in Greater New Orleans, who are now unable to return for what maybe an extended period. Support from the Hurricane Katrina Displaced Residents Fund will be disbursed directly to non-profit organizations with the assessed capability to affect the greatest need among evacuees in our area, and allows the Baton Rouge Area Foundation the flexibility to act quickly and decisively.

Fourth District Baptist Association - $5,000
Fourth District Missionary Baptist Association had been named an official relief distribution center. The association, a group of 200-plus churches with predominantly black congregations, has been leading communal efforts to assist the thousands of evacuees from New Orleans that have relocated to Baton Rouge.

Jewish Federation of Baton Rouge - Katrina Relief Fund - $10,000
The small Jewish community in Baton Rouge has nearly doubled in size, along with the rest of Baton Rouge. Reaching out to nearly 1,000 Jewish evacuees from New Orleans, the community has welcomed these newcomers into their homes and community. They have sent rescue missions into New Orleans to save individuals as well as sacred scrolls and other ritual items. 

Reform Congregation mini-grants: $45,000 

Beth Israel Congregation, Jackson, MS - $10,000


Temple Beth El, San Antonio, TX - $10,000


Congregation B'nai Israel, Baton Rouge, LA -$10,000


Beth Shalom Synagogue, Baton Rouge, LA - $10,000


Gemiluth Chassodim, Alexandria, LA - $5,000


The Union’s Disaster Relief Fund (see is activated in response to disasters that occur both here and abroad, Thal said. In the past, it has been used to provide relief to victims of floods in Europe, earthquakes in South America, Black churches that were burned in the Southern US, and the victims and their families of September 11.


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