US Jewish communities raise funds for hurricane, wildfire relief

The US is currently taking on two natural disasters simultaneously: Hurricane Laura and California wildfires

A wind driven wildfire in the hills of Canyon Country north of Los Angeles, California (photo credit: GENE BLEVINS / REUTERS)
A wind driven wildfire in the hills of Canyon Country north of Los Angeles, California
(photo credit: GENE BLEVINS / REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – As the US is handling two natural disasters – Hurricane Laura and California wildfires – simultaneously, multiple Jewish organizations are stepping up to provide food, funds and other supplies.
Hurricane Laura, a deadly category 4 hurricane, made landfall in Louisiana on August 27, killing at least 23 people, inflicting significant damage, knocking down thousands of homes and creating widespread power outages and a loss of access to running water.
One of the organizations that rushed to help this week is the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston. “Three years ago, our community was really devastated by Hurricane Harvey and [we] feel compassion for our neighbors to the east who took the brunt of this storm,” Jennifer Friedberg of the federation told The Jerusalem Post.
“I think everybody in Houston knows what that’s like, having been through it ourselves and just seeing the devastation there; we wanted to do something to help their community.”

All we can say is, “Wow!” We are once again awed and inspired by the generosity of our incredible community! Thank you...

Posted by Jewish Federation of Greater Houston on Sunday, August 30, 2020
“All we can say is, ‘Wow!’ We are once again awed and inspired by the generosity of our incredible community! Thank you,” wrote the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston on Sunday.
The federations, in partnership with other local agencies such as Southwest Houston United Responds, Bethel’s Heavenly Hands, Texas Congregational Disaster Readiness and the local JCC, collected supplies such as non-perishable foods, tarping supplies, water, personal hygiene products, baby formula and diapers, among other things.
“It’s part of a bigger effort here,” said Friedberg. “The response that we got was tremendous. Our community came out to support this. Everything that we collected is going to Lake Charles, Louisiana.”
Another organization, the Minneapolis-based “NECHAMA” – Jewish Response to Disaster, is currently sending a team to Louisiana to assess the needs on the ground. “[We] sent a team toward Louisiana early this morning to assess storm damage in the Lafayette and Lake Charles areas to determine where we will concentrate our immediate efforts and how we can best house volunteers to begin assisting the community,” Kristine Seabloom, an administrator at the organization, told the Post.
After the initial assessment, the organization enlists the help of volunteers to carry out the work. “This work consists of removing all damaged items from homes such as carpet, insulation, drywall, and any other items with structural or water damage that could lead to mold growth,” said Seabloom.
“We help homeowners go through personal items to save items that are not beyond repair and any items that hold sentimental value. In addition, if there are damage or accessibility issues due to trees that have fallen, we cut and remove trees that are not touching power lines.”
In addition, the organization is also raising funds to support the work on the ground.
Marc Blattner, the president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland, told the Post that at any time there is a natural disaster of some kind, the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland tries to be proactive and respond to it. “And with hurricane Laura bearing down on the Gulf Coast, we sent out our message to the community,” he said. “We’ve probably received 50 donations with a total of nearly $10,000.”
Blattner said that fundraising would continue in the upcoming days. “Typically, we open the mailbox for about a week, and then we close it down, and whatever money, [we were able to raise] we send it off immediately, we don’t hold on to it all. And 100% of the money goes to the relief effort.”
CALIFORNIA, meanwhile, is facing hundreds of fires across the Northern part of the state. According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, “On August 17, lightning strikes started hundreds of fires across Northern California, In the days since, over 1 million acres have burned. California is under a state of emergency, and all CAL FIRE resources are fully committed to battling these fires.”
Three Northern California Federations – Sacramento, Silicon Valley, and the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco – joined forces this week to coordinate their response to the wildfires, with each of them setting up emergency funds. “Since the lightning strikes occurred just over a week ago, more than 1.4 million acres have burned, including right here in our backyards,” the CEOs of the three federations wrote in a joint email.
“[A] gift to any of our three Federations will support a collaborative response throughout the region,” they added. “Together, using our experience in wildfire emergency response, we will assess the most pressing community needs, work with partners across the region, and grant funds to provide urgently needed support.”