KC Jewish community helping with fire disaster in Israel
- Category: Archived News
- Written by Barbara Bayer, Editor
Kansas City’s Jewish community is responding with help following the devastating forest fire that broke out Thursday, Dec. 2, in the Carmel Mountains near Haifa, Israel. At least 42 people have died, homes were lost and more than 12,500 acres of forests destroyed. Jewish National Fund foresters estimate more than 5 million trees were burned.
Todd Stettner, executive vice-president & CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City reports that the Federation mobilized very quickly to join the national Jewish Federations of North America effort by establishing a special mailbox for donations to help the victims of this fire.
"Our focus has been on helping the people of the region. Both our major overseas partners , the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) were on the scene quickly to help evacuate the most vulnerable — children, the elderly and disabled," Stettner said.
He said that 1,000 children were sent to special camps where activities could be provided for them in safe places and volunteer teams went house to house in some areas to check on the elderly.
"In addition, through the Israel Trauma Coalition we are providing counseling to families of the fire victims, those who lost their homes and valuables and to the emergency personnel who were witness to this tragedy," Stettner said.
Stettner has visited the area and said he can "attest to the fact that a beautiful part of Israel has been destroyed in addition to the lives and property that were lost. We now must concentrate on rebuilding and repairing shattered lives."
He said the local Federation will continue to work with our on-the-ground partners in Israel to determine both the short and long-term needs of those affected, noting that contributions will be directly distributed to the most effective service providers.
JNF’s emergency campaign
Local JNF supporter Larry Haith sent an e-mail blast to his friends on Monday telling them that it was time to "give ’til it hurts."
"Then it feels soooo good … So dig deep, do not go out to dinner this weekend ... pass on the new car ... take care of our people," Haith pleaded.
Haith said he gives to many Jewish causes, but JNF is one of his favorites because it is a non-political entity that owns and administers the land in Israel.
"As a young boy we always had the blue box. In synagogue we had the blue box. When I was fresh out of college I was fortunate to meet Alon Ben Meir, who is now a professor and writer at NYU. He asked me to be the local JNF president and I accepted the position for 10 years," he said.
As the local JNF president, Haith learned a lot about JNF, raised large sums of money and spoke to many groups about the organization.
"It was one of the great experiences of my life. I would love to do it full time," he said. "Go to the JNF website. The JNF has planted so many trees that the desert now rains. A gift of a tree gives an individual an affinity with the land, so I give the gift of a tree on many occasions."
Another reason Haith supports JNF is because their administrative costs are below 10 percent. He also loves it because all Jews own JNF.
"It’s like a big partnership owns Israel, therefore it can never be sold.The land purchases began in 1902 through Theodore Herzel and Baron Rothschild and from 1903 until 1948 enough absentee land was purchased that the British, through the United Nations, agreed to mandate the statehood of Israel. and the JNF is the administer of the land holdings," Haith explained.
Haith also pointed to the JNF website, www.jnf.org, which notes that the road to recovery in Israel has just begun. JNF, staying true to its mandate of caring for the needs of the land and people of Israel,has established Operation Carmel Renewal: From Black to Green to help rebuild and renew the Carmel Forest. Forest restoration efforts will include erosion prevention, clearing of debris, creation of firebreaksand care of the naturally regenerating woodlands.
Almost every national Jewish organization is raising funds to help the relief effort for the worst fire in Israel’s history. Here’s two ways you can help:
The Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City is accepting donations. They may be mailed to:
The Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City, Attn: Israel Fire Relief Fund, 5801 W. 115th St., Suite 201, Overland Park, KS 66211. Credit card payments will be accepted by phone by contacting Gail Weinberg at (913) 327-8123 or going online to the Israel Fire Relief Fund www.jewishkansascity.org.
Jewish National Fund is accepting donations, via credit card, at www.jnf.org.