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Fire Donations

Contact: Donald Cohen-Cutler
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Reform Movement Takes Care of Wildfire Victims
Donations Used to Support Local Social Services, Fire Victims

SAN DIEGO—Dec. 12, 2007—As the Union for Reform Judaism opens its convention here today, it will pause to remember the wildfires that devastated the area two months ago and to reflect on the mitzvah of striving l’taken et ha-olam—to heal our scorched earth.

Rabbi Marla Feldman, who directs the Union’s efforts when disaster strikes, said that in response to the fires, the Union opened a Wildfire Relief Fund to help. “As a community of faith, we do our share to assist those in need, particularly poor and vulnerable populations that do not have sufficient resources to rebuild their lives without the aid of others,” she said.

Feldman announced that the Union has allocated $20,000 and more than $2,000 in gift cards to three social service organizations in the San Diego area and had donated Jewish book collections to the 19 Reform families who lost their homes to the fire.

More than 5,000 Reform Jews will be in San Diego for the Biennial Convention, which is meeting at the San Diego Convention Center. Wednesday night’s opening session will feature a tribute to those who fought the fires September fires. On Sunday, December 16 the Convention’s Exhibit Hall will be open to the public from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., giving them the opportunity to purchase items from more than 200 vendors.

The donations were as follows:
• Jewish Family Services of San Diego ($10,000), which provided an important safety net for the community in the aftermath of the fires. JFS has helped 150 Jewish and non-Jewish families by supplying gift cards to help with short-term needs; financial aid for mortgage, rent, and utility bills for those who lost wages due to the fires; assistance in accessing governmental benefits; and trauma counseling. In the coming weeks, JFS will provide mini-grants to families who are victims of the fires for car repair, home furnishings and other basic needs.

• Interfaith Community Service ($3,000) which works in collaboration with other grassroots local organizations in the Northeast area of San Diego County, where many agricultural workers were displaced and are unable to return to their homes. ICS is purchasing residential trailers for these families near their previous homes, and eventually will turn titles over to the families as a way to help them rebuild their lives.

• Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice ($3,500), which reached out to immigrant and low-wage workers who lost homes or employment income due to the fires. Because many of these workers are unable or fearful of applying for government benefits, much of this work entails door to door assessments to identify and address needs. The Union’s grant will be used to disburse gift cards to predominantly immigrant families affected by the fires either through loss of work or loss of property – or both.

The families who lost their homes received a collection of Jewish books and CDS from URJ Books and Music and the CCAR Press, including Mitzvah of Healing; the Haftorah and Torah Commentaries; Pirke Avot; two CDs. Haneriot Halalu and Ruach 5767; Gates of Shabbat, On the Doorpost of Your House, Day by Day, Gates of Mitzvah and Gates of the Seasons.

The Reform Movement has a strong history of generosity when disasters occur, providing necessary funds for natural and man-made crises. The Union does not take any administrative fees for this work; 100% of donations are directed to relief efforts, less any credit card fees charged to the Union


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.

 
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