Union for Reform Judaism continues to Support Gulf Coast One Year Anniversary of Katrina approaches as URJ provides more than $4.2 Million Millions More Given in In-Kind Donations
August 17, 2006 In the 12 months since the devastating storms of the 2006 hurricane season, the Union for Reform Judaism has raised and allocated more than $4.2 million to help its victims and to support the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast.
When Hurricane Katrina hit the Southeast coast, the Union opened its disaster relief fund and donations poured in for both general relief and relief to the areas synagogues. Then, as the extent of the impact to the four Reform synagogues in Greater New Orleans became more fully known, the Union launched SOS New Orleans to directly benefit these synagogues.
To date, the Union has funneled more than $800,000 in direct aid to the four Reform congregations and their members, and has reserved another $800,000 to help congregations cover uninsured losses, said Rabbi Deborah Hirsch, who has been leading the Union for Reform Judaisms hurricane disaster relief efforts with Rabbi Marla Feldman.
While all Jewish institutions need and deserve aid during this crisis, it has been particularly important to sustain the synagogues, which provide community and spiritual support to the Jews of the area, said Rabbi Hirsch. And, since 75 percent of New Orleans Jews are Reform Jews, it has been particularly important for us to sustain and rebuild this community, which has played such an important and historic role in the development of Judaism in North America. It is critical that we help these congregations remain viable.
While much of the Unions efforts have been directed at keeping these congregations viable until their members return to New Orleans, it also has directed more than $1.5 million toward general relief, donating funds to agencies that are working on the ground in the affected areas.
The Union recently provided $35,000 for a project through Volunteers of America for the rebuilding efforts seeking to bring back the St. Roch community of New Orleans, a primarily African American neighborhood that was a community of free people of color before the Civil War and later as a center for jazz musicians. This project will revitalize the historic open air market that is the center of the local economy. Additionally the Union has allocated $11,500 for a project to be facilitated by the United Way of Greater New Orleans in partnership with Greater New Orleans Disaster Relief Partnership, to fund Care for Care Providers; training and supporting social workers, case managers, and clergy of non-profit and faith based organizations.
While Katrina may be off the front pages of newspapers, interest in helping has not abated, said Rabbi Feldman. Hardly a day goes by that we dont hear about another congregation that has organized a mission, or learn of another religious school that has undertaken a project, or receive additional donations to our relief funds, she said.
Donations to the Unions Hurricane Disaster Relief Fund may be made online at www.urj.org/give or mailed to Union for Reform Judaism Disaster Relief Fund, 633 Third Ave., New York, NY 1017. The Union is absorbing all overhead costs other than fees charged by credit card companies.
Grants made to date: (A description of each agency and how the funds will be used are available online 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, D.C.