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Federation collects over $1.86 million, provides social services for Katrina relief

Date: 11/8/2005

Federation collects over $1.86 million, provides social services for Katrina relief

Staff Writer

When Michelle Krumholz asked her daughter, Olivia, what she would like for her upcoming birthday, the 8-year-old from Highland Park replied that she already has everything she needs. She then asked that her family and friends make contributions to Katrina relief efforts in lieu of buying gifts.

Olivia’s sentiments have been echoed throughout the Chicago Jewish community as hurricane victims remain in the hearts and minds of the entire nation. Though it’s been two months since Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, followed by the smaller, yet still ferocious Hurricane Rita, the Chicago Jewish community continues its outpouring of support.

As of Oct. 25, the Hurricane Relief Fund of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago had raised some $1.86 million from more than 5,700 donors, contributing to the over $23 million total hurricane relief funds raised by the UJC/Federations of North America. One hundred percent of all funds received are being used for human services.

Funds raised locally and nationally are helping Jewish and non-Jewish storm victims with services, including transitional shelters, hospital and other health care services, counseling, day care, support for the disabled, job placement and financial support. While UJC and the Federations of North America continue to assess further needs, more than $6.3 million has been earmarked to help evacuees and to support Jewish communities in Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

Raising cash donations remains the highest priority, according to government and nonprofit organizations operating along the Gulf Coast and in cities housing evacuees. JUF is also holding a toiletry drive to assist with hurricane survivors' long-term needs. The drive is being held in partnership with Lutheran Social Services of Illinois, which is collecting nonperishable foods.

Members of J-CERT (Jewish Community Emergency Resiliency Team) continue to serve the social services needs of many of the estimated 8000-10,000 evacuees in the Chicago area (see JUF News, October). Federation and its agencies are serving more than 150 Katrina victims with a range of services, including comprehensive case management, transitional housing, health care, crisis and mental health counseling, day care for children and seniors, specialized support for the disabled, job placement, financial support, and location services. Up to 300 more cases are expected to be referred to Federation agencies in the days and weeks ahead.

Five Federation agencies will continue to provide these services to evacuees: Jewish Family and Community Service, Jewish Children’s Bureau, Jewish Vocational Service, Sinai Community Institute, and Council for Jewish Elderly. In addition, the Jewish Community Centers have accepted three children into early childhood programs, and JVS is helping evacuees find employment. The Council for Jewish Elderly placed one individual in assisted living. The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society of Chicago is helping evacuees who are seeking information on friends and loved ones, and has developed a referral mechanism for people of all faiths who have religious needs.

Federation is working with partners in the general community, including the United Way, the American Red Cross, Lutheran Social Services of Illinois, Catholic Charities, the Heartland Alliance, Metropolitan Family Services, and the Chicago Area Project, to maximize the expertise and resources of the entire nonprofit community. As part of a coalition led by the United Way, the Federation is also helping to coordinate comprehensive case management for evacuees in the Chicago area, including basic necessities such as housing, health care and linkage to federal and state aid programs.

Finally, J-Cert, a corps of highly trained trauma and mental health agency professionals who are prepared to respond to community emergencies, remain mobilized to go to the Gulf States if they are needed.

A community responds

In addition to participating in Jewish Federation’s hurricane relief initiatives, the Jewish community’s relief projects are as numerous as the individuals, synagogues and organizations participating in them. Below are examples of local relief initiatives.

Students at Chicago Jewish Day School are collecting tzedakah to be distributed by RAVSAK (the Jewish Community Day School Network) and the Jewish Federation. In addition, CJDS students collected stuffed animals and clothing in partnership with Emanuel Congregation, where CJDS is housed. Students also created a Hero’s Wall to share with each other what they learned about true heroes from this tragedy. Pictured are students from the junior kindergarten class next to the display.

On Sept. 11 students at Beth Chaverim Humanistic Jewish Community raised over $700 for Hurricane Katrina victims by washing 30 cars at a school carwash.

At Am Shalom synagogue of Glencoe, congregants are providing supplies and food for evacuees who are housed temporarily in a Waukegan homeless shelter. According to Rabbi Steven Lowenstein, the congregation gathered so many supplies that they opened their own distribution center for those who have been relocated to Lake County.

Jewish Women International (JWI) is making a contribution from its Women’s Economic Security Fund to several domestic violence programs in the areas affected by the hurricanes. JWI’s first donation will support the Louisiana Domestic Violence Victim’s Hurricane Relief Fund, which provides direct assistance to victims of domestic violence who are displaced and affected by both Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita. JWI’s contribution also will include personal donations from staff, lay leaders, members and supporters. For more information, go to www.jwi.org or call (800) 343-2823.

According to Rabbi Meir Moscowitz of the Lubavitch Chabad of Northbrook, several local Chabad houses are collecting funds for Chabad's Hurricane relief efforts through various programs such as the campus challah sale at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

According to Rabbi Alicia Magal, hurricane relief efforts at Makom Shalom Congregation focused on collecting school supplies that are being forwarded to a relief group in Alabama for distribution.

North Shore Congregation Israel and Beth Emet The Free Synagogue are collecting funds for the Union for Reform Judaism Hurricane Relief Fund, which is designed to aid both congregations and communities affected by the hurricane. Rabbi Steven Mason of North Shore Congregation Israel also encouraged donations to the Jewish Federation Hurricane Relief Fund.

Temple Jeremiah congregants sent linens, toiletries and food down to Mississippi in an effort organized by Tina LaValliere and Susan Brody.

Congregation Or Shalom and Temple Beth Israel in Skokie also provided supplies for evacuees in Mississippi, including children from a special needs school. Volunteers packed two semi trucks with goods to be distributed at Camp Jacob, a reform summer camp in Utica, Miss., in an event spearheaded by Michael Lorge, past president of the congregation. Members of Congregation Or Shalom are also purchasing roses from the Negev desert whose proceeds will go to the URJ’s hurricane relief fund.

Oak Park Temple B'nai Abraham Zion solicited donations for Katrina relief, including a challenge grant from an informal men's group at the congregation, and collected food products, clothing and toiletries that were sent to relief centers. Many members in the congregation–including physicians, attorneys, social workers and therapists–are volunteering at a transitional living center for the displaced. The congregation is also sponsoring at least one family for relocation in Oak Park, in collaboration with West Suburban P.A.D.S.

Children at Congregation Etz Chaim in Lombard brought donations to the first day of religious school. A congregant then donated a truck to bring the items to the Salvation Army in Elgin.

Members of Kehillat Shalom in Skokie raised money for evacuees by selling used books and New Year's greeting cards. The congregation’s eighth-graders sold jewelry. Members also collected toiletries for the Federation’s toiletry drive.

The synagogue youth group at Shir Hadash Reconstructionist Synagogue in Deerfield asked members to bring video games, CDs and DVDs to give to the children who are hurricane victims. For every 15 PlayStation games they turn in, the store, Games Plus, will give them a PlayStation system for evacuees.

Anshe Sholom B'nai Israel Congregation is sending e-mails and weekly bulletins encouraging congregants to contribute to the Jewish Federation’s Hurricane Relief Fund.

To donate to the Jewish Federation Hurricane Relief Fund, visit www.juf.org/katrina or call (312) 444-2854. Checks should be sent to Jewish Federation Hurricane Relief Fund, 1 S. Franklin, #625, Chicago, IL 60606. As always, donations to the Jewish Federation are tax deductible.