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October 9, 2015 | 26th Tishrei 5776
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Local Community Action

There are many ways your congregation can help in the efforts to assist victims of Hurricane Katrina. Below are several suggestions; if your congregation has developed a project, please let us know by sending information to

1. Assist relief and resettlement efforts in your local community


As relief efforts move from rescue to resettlement, communities around the country are being asked to take in thousands of evacuees on both a temporary and permanent basis. As active members of their communities around the country, Reform congregations can help lead the efforts to resettle those who have been displaced by Hurricane Katrina. By working in conjunction with other faith groups, social service agencies and local government, congregations can play a key role in welcoming displaced individuals and families and absorbing them into the community. Below are some ways congregations can assist in these efforts.



Many congregations and their members have generously offered to provide housing for evacuees. This aspect of the Jewish community’s relief efforts is being coordinated by the United Jewish Communities and local federations. The Union is working closely with the national agencies to ensure that all offers to provide housing that we have received are given to the appropriate agencies. Offers of housing, from either congregations or individuals, should be sent by email to



There are many ways you can help welcome newcomers into your community. Remember that they will be re-establishing their social networks and desperately need the hand of friendship. As they rebuild their lives, they will also need to rebuild their self esteem and independence. Work with agencies resettling evacuees to provide support beyond food and shelter. Consider the following:

  • Host social outings for families to local theme parks, zoos or other attractions.
  • Offer guided tours of your community to help newcomers become acclimated to their new surroundings.
  • Schedule play dates with new students in your children’s’ school.
  • Work with local agencies to provide job opportunities for displaced workers.
  • Provide gift cards to local vendors to enable evacuees to purchase personal items of their own choosing; these can be handled through local agencies or through the Union's Gift Card Project.
  • Work with local agencies to provide crisis counseling to traumatized evacuees.


Resettling Jewish evacuees

There are many ways a congregation can welcome and support displaced Jewish individuals and families:

  • Offer free membership in your congregation.
  • Provide tickets to your High Holy Day services and invite them into your homes for dinners and break fasts.
  • Invite new residents to a community Shabbat dinner and/or your home Shabbat celebrations.
  • Offer free tuition to Jewish children to enroll in religious school or day school.
  • Help Jewish individuals and families celebrate their simchas, including Bar or Bat Mitzvah, Consecration, Confirmation, and weddings. Be sure to include their love ones’ names on yahrzeit lists.
  • Involve teenagers in your youth group and invite them into existing social networks; the internet has become a key link for youth to connect with one another and it is particularly important at this time that they be able to communicate not only with their new friends but also with friends from home that are disbursed around the country.
  • In the coming weeks, evacuees will be dealing with the delayed emotional response of their trauma. Contact the Department of Jewish Family Concerns if you would like a licensed mental health professional to visit your congregation.


2. Jacobs Ladder: A Relief Project of the Union for Reform Judaism

The need for food and other daily necessities is overwhelming. And so, as Reform Jews, we have no choice but to respond and help.

Jacob's Ladder: A Relief Project of the Union for Reform Judaism, is 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 (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.

Currently, Jacob’s Ladder is accepting donations of supplies including bottled water, diapers, non-perishable foodstuffs, hygiene products, medical supplies, and new blankets. If your congregation is interested in collecting and donating supplies to Jacob’s Ladder, get more information here.


3. Collect funds for the Union for Reform Judaism Disaster Relief fund

Many congregations are organizing congregation-wide efforts to raise funds to be donated to the Union’s Disaster Relief Fund. In addition to promoting it through e-mail and your bulletin, consider

  • Host a community-wide concert or other event to raise funds for hurricane relief
  • Set aside a portion of your Yom Kippur Appeal proceeds for hurricane relief.
  • Promote the Union’s disaster relief fund in e-mail newsletters.


4. Participate in the Union’s Gift Cards project

Many people do not want to give to a general relief fund but prefer to give a tangible gift. You can help meet these needs by encouraging your members to purchase gift cards that can be distributed through local shelters or to evacuees through the Union.


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