Back in late August, when Hurricane Katrina slammed the Gulf Coast, we talked about immediate and longer-term needs. Many people, including members of this congregation, responded generously to calls for donations to relief funds. Among the funds established was one sponsored by the constituent members of the Conservative movement and administered by the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ). More than $750,000 reached that fund.
Responding to the immediate needs, USCJ distributed about $100,000 to interfaith groups providing food and shelter to displaced residents of the affected areas. We committed another $150,000 to the efforts of United Jewish Communities (the umbrella organization for Federations). The rest was held in abeyance to see what the longer-term needs of the Jewish and general communities would be.
Last month, representatives of synagogues impacted by Katrina, Rita and Wilma reported to the Social Action and Public Policy Committee of USCJ. Having had a chance to assess their losses (including insurance claims), they appealed to us for help. We committed $400,000 of the remaining funds to synagogues in New Orleans, Biloxi and south Florida, pending actual expenses. We also pooled $60,000 with a fund for low-income families to rebuild or relocate in their home communities.
Do the math–-the fund is now mostly depleted. But, as you know, the need remains. If you were in shul over Thanksgiving weekend, you heard our member Susan Richmond, chief of staff to Vice-Admiral Thad Allen (who is directing relief efforts), speak of the devastation that remains–-but is now "old news." So the time has come to renew our compassion and return to addressing longer-term needs.
You may have your own desired destination for tzedakah dollars, but I would like to recommend replenishing the USCJ fund. You can mail a check to Hurricane Relief Fund, c/o USCJ, 155 Fifth Avenue, NY 10010, or visit
(or start at www.uscj.org and follow the links).
Your tzedakah boxes at home are probably fuller now that Chanukkah has ended. Empty them; match them or more; reach out to those in need. Thanks.