Jewish Federations Support Disaster Relief Worldwide
In recent years, Federations have raised millions for victims of natural disasters, including Hurricane Katrina, the Japan earthquake, Haiti earthquake and helped Israel recover from the Carmel Forest Fire.
December 9, 2011 -- In the wake of recent natural disasters around the world, Jewish Federations have mobilized to aid victims and help communities respond.
The Jewish Federations of North America’s Emergency Committee recently voted to allocate additional funds to support victims of the deadly earthquake, ensuing tsunami and nuclear crisis in Japan. The committee granted $120,000 for the building of a “PTSD Mobile Training Center” by IsraAID: The Israel Forum for International Humanitarian Aid, in the Tohoku region of Japan.
So far, the Emergency Committee has allocated more than $655,000 to help those in need in Japan. The committee will continue to evaluate how best to use the remaining funds of the more than $1 million raised by Federations.
This latest allocation will help support a Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) treatment facility, as well as training for citizens and professionals that will help the hundreds of thousands of Japanese people devastated by the March disaster. The first phase of the project will include extensive PTSD training for mental health workers and more general training for teachers who are faced with post-trauma affected children and parents. During the second phase, IsraAID teams will monitor the progress of trainees as they begin to treat the general population.
JFNA’s Emergency Chair, Cheryl Fishbein of New York, said crisis relief is often a long-term process. "While many move quickly to offer immediate assistance in the wake of a disaster, the reconstruction and rebuilding of communities that comes later on is just as critical," said Fishbein. "IsraAid's project will help the local population of Japan's Tohoku region return to a life of normalcy, by providing crucial emotional support for those that endured the devastating tsunami earlier this year."
Shachar Zahavi, founding director of IsraAID, explained that although this natural disaster occurred nine months ago, the people in the Tohoku region are still dealing with daily trauma. “We are working in areas that are directly affected by the radiation, where people live in fear of leaving their homes. Most children are not permitted to play outside for more then 10 to 15 minutes a day,” Zahavi said. “The united efforts of Jewish Federations allow us to provide the best treatment and aid to those in need worldwide. It shows that we, as the Jewish community, all see ourselves as part of the global village.”
Other Jewish Federation efforts continue through the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), which has been highly involved in relief work in Japan. JDC's initiatives include a flagship Hibuki-doll post-trauma program — first developed in Israel for children suffering during the Second Lebanon War — which includes the training of teachers and health care professionals; renovating and equipping community cafés and rehabilitation centers in Ishinomaki City; psychosocial support training for mental health and educational professionals working with children, adults and the elderly affected by the disaster; and an ongoing partnership with the Jewish community of Japan to ensure local needs are addressed and met as quickly and strategically as possible.
Jewish Federations have also organized to respond to a devastating drought and famine in East Africa. Through the Jewish Coalition for Disaster Relief (JDCR), an alliance of U.S. and global Jewish agencies that provides a united Jewish response to humanitarian disasters, Jewish Federations have contributed tens of thousands of dollars to help victims across the Horn of Africa. JDCR is coordinated by JDC.
More than $150,000 has so far been raised by JDCR’s East Africa Coalition, $60,000 of which was contributed by the Jewish Federation of Reading, Pa. The funds will help millions in countries like Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, who are experiencing their worst drought in 60 years. People in these countries are in desperate need of food and water, while malnutrition is spreading, crops are withering and livestock are dying. A famine has been declared in two regions of Somalia, causing roughly 600,000 Somalis to flee to neighboring countries.
The Reading Federation’s broad-based appeal to support aid to East Africa was encouraged by two local donors, Irv and Lois Cohen, who offered to match all dollars raised. “This Jewish community has so much heart,” said Tammy Mitgang, president of the Jewish Federation of Reading. “No matter what the cause is, Jews in our community are always the first people to step up. They don’t say, ‘is this person Jewish?’ They feel it’s their responsibility to take care of all people in need.”
The Federation continues to raise money for the cause, and urges Jewish Federations to direct donors to their website. Contributions can also be sent to JDC-Jewish Coalition for Disaster Relief, P.O. Box 4124, New York, NY, 10163. Please indicate “JCDR East Africa Relief” on all checks.
“If Federations only looked in our own backyards, we would be shortsighted,” said Mitgang. “We must always remember that there are others who need, and we can help. It doesn’t matter if they are in our own community, in Israel, or in East Africa.”
In recent years, Federations have raised millions of dollars for victims of natural disasters, including $30 million for Hurricane Katrina relief, $10 million to support JDC's response to the Southeast Asia tsunami in 2004 and more than $1 million for relief work in Japan. Federations also contributed to JDC's Haiti earthquake relief, which topped $8 million, and raised $2.7 million to help Israel recover from the Carmel Forest Fire, the worst such disaster in the country's history.
For more information about Jewish Federation disaster relief, contact JFNA’s Washington office, at (202) 785-5900.