Union for Reform Judaism Announces New Fund to Help Louisiana Synagogues SOS New Orleans to Help Four Congregations Maintain Operations
HOUSTON, November 16 The Union for Reform Judaism today announced SOS New Orleans, a new fund-raising campaign to help four New Orleans-area Reform congregations maintain their operations, programs, and services in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
The announcement was made at the opening session of the Unions Biennial Convention in Houston, during which leaders of these congregations Congregation Gates of Prayer of Metairie, Temple Sinai and Touro Synagogue of New Orleans, and the Northshore Jewish Congregation of Mandeville recounted their ordeal.
Out of the more than 2,000 families who belonged to these four synagogues before the hurricanes, 500 to 600 between 25 and 35 percent may not return. These congregations have faced enormous difficulty in trying to resume normal operations. Shabbat services, religious schools, and educational programs are up and running once again, but continuing this work without synagogue dues coming in will be extraordinarily difficult. The Union for Reform Judaism Hurricane Relief Fund has provided four months of general financial support for the congregations, but much more is needed.
Never in our modern Jewish history have we witnessed such a dramatic displacement of a Jewish community in North America: so many people displaced, for whom knows how long a time, said Robert M. Heller, Chairman of the Union Board of Trustees. Those who want to return need to know their congregations will be there for them. The buildings can and will be repaired, but souls and spirits do not mend so easily.
Continued Heller: At a time when the Jews of New Orleans most need spiritual and physical sustenance, at a time when they are most likely to turn to their congregational families, we, the North American Reform Movement, must be their congregational families. We must be responsible for one another, and help them so they can find their way to the light and hope of Chanukah and beyond.
All Biennial attendees received a special envelope, marked with the phrase We Are All Jews of New Orleans. They were asked to donate through a series of designated boxes at the George R. Brown Convention Center, where the Biennial is currently taking place; by mailing their contribution directly to Union headquarters in New York; or by contributing online. Attendees were also asked to appeal for the help of their own congregations once they return home.
In addition, all funds up to a total of $250,000 raised by the Reform Movement will be matched by a challenge grant from the Jewish Endowment Foundation of New Orleans.
This fundraising appeal comes on the heels of the Unions landmark effort to respond to the urgent needs of Jews and non-Jews affected by the hurricanes. Since the onslaught of Hurricane Katrina during the last days of August, the Union has received more than $3.2 million in cash and gift cards, and more than three million pounds of food and supplies which it delivered to people in need throughout the Gulf Coast. The vast majority of these donations came from ordinary Reform congregants who opened their hearts and their checkbooks upon seeing the devastation wrought by the storms.
For more information on the Unions past and current efforts to assist hurricane victims or to donate funds please visit the Web site at www.urj.org/relief.
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.