by Nathan Guttman, THE JERUSALEM POST Sep. 3, 2005
American Jews began raising money to assist victims of hurricane Katrina that hit the gulf coast this Monday. The United Jewish Communities (UJC), an umbrella organization of Jewish federations in North America, established a special emergency fund and is receiving, since Tuesday, donations from Jews who wish to help the relief effort.
More than $600,000 has been raised by the end of the week and the UJC expects many more donations in the course of the next days.
The UJC fund will also deal with contributions funneled through other major Jewish organizations, among them the Joint, AIPAC and the American Jewish World Service.
The donations are meant to help the Jewish and the general population in the states hit by the hurricane – Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida. The Jewish federations in the affected areas will help coordinate the relief efforts and assess the needs on the ground.
Carol Smokler, chair of the emergency committee at the UJC, said that the Jewish community has always been at the forefront of responding to human and natural disasters, adding that the Jewish federations of North America will "respond rapidly to ease the challenges and suffering of our Jewish brethren and their neighbors".
In an open letter sent out this Friday to members of the Jewish federations, Howard Rieger, president of the UJC, said that the Jewish community is working tirelessly to respond to the needs of the hurricane struck areas and to the specific needs of the Jewish communities in these areas – reconstruction of community buildings, replacing sacred books and helping communities get ready for the high holidays.
Rieger stressed in his letter that the Jewish community must not forget the need to help other people in America and around the world that are also suffering. "Today, New Orleans and Mississippi. But today is also Darfur the former Soviet Union, the hungry in North America or Israel or the Southeast Asian communities wiped out by the tsunami", wrote Rieger.