With news of the widespread devastation of Hurricane Katrina, a tremendous outpouring of care and goodwill has come from the Greater Philadelphia Jewish community. In this difficult time of national crisis and the mounting human toll in the Gulf Coast region, Jewish values and the sense of responsibility to care for others resulted in an immediate response to provide aid for the victims.
"Our community saw people in sudden, dire need - and immediately responded on a large scale with help," said Beryl D. Simonson, board chair of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia. "Synagogues and other Jewish organization are actively participating to further initiate and sustain emergency relief for the hurricane victims."
Taking timely and effective action has been at the forefront of Federation's efforts to respond to this national crisis and to the Jewish community's desire to help.
Within days of the disastrous flooding in New Orleans, Federation established the Hurricane Relief Fund, and donations have been coming in at a steady pace, even quite heavily throughout the Labor Day weekend. Federation's ability to respond rapidly through its national affiliation with United Jewish Communities - which is working at the ground level with key national relief organizations - ensures that donations are quickly directed to appropriate relief efforts in New Orleans and other impacted areas.
More is needed, of course, and Federation is fully mobilized to help.
At this point, rapid relief for families and individual victims is the most pressing concern, and cash donations remain the most useful way to provide help.
In approximately one week, Federation has raised more than $100,000 to help the Gulf region.
At the local level, Mayor John F. Street convened a meeting last week with all faith-based community leaders, where he called upon all Philadelphians to assist in receiving displaced families from New Orleans. The city began developing its plans to help and to assess the needs.
Once actual needs are determined, Federation stands ready to offer its resources and coordinate local relief activities, such as food drives and other volunteer efforts.
In responding to a crisis of this magnitude, Federation focuses key staff and leadership on the critical needs and on the community's efforts to ensure an organized and coordinated approach to respond.
"Responsibility and accountability to donors are the keys to having a meaningful impact," stressed Harold Goldman, president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.
"The greatest beneficiaries of our disciplined use of resources, especially during this crisis, are the victims themselves; they are quickly receiving the help they need from our donors and community partners."