January 17, 2010
L.A. synagogues focus efforts on crisis in Haiti
“We are tied together in a single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. And whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
Rabbi John Rosove was quoting the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. at a celebration of his life, when news of the devastating Haiti earthquake started coming in, lending a special relevance to the civil rights leader’s words.
Rosove, the spiritual leader of Temple Israel of Hollywood, was still shaken by the magnitude of the disaster when he spoke to The Journal, proud of the community’s response, but worried that the needed long-range rebuilding effort would falter as Haiti fades from the headlines.
“This is an effort that must continue for years,” he said. “What I am hoping for is a kind of international Marshall plan, that helped rebuild Europe after World War II.”
At Sinai Temple in Westwood, Rabbi David Wolpe connected the earthquake to the current Torah reading on the plagues.
“The source of all things are in God,” he said, “but how we respond to our current plagues is up to us.”
Throughout the Los Angeles area, large community-wide organizations, small synagogues and Jewish schools put other projects on hold to rally to the aid of the stricken island.
Most heeded the advice that the damage was so widespread and the existing infrastructure so rudimentary, that the most efficient way to help was to send money to existing relief organizations on the ground.
The community’s central address for the effort is the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, which is accepting contributions by mail or online. For information phone (323) 761-8413.
The Federation will absorb all administrative costs and distribute the funds through the Jewish Coalition for Disaster Relief, American Joint Distribution Committee (JDF), American Jewish World Service, MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, IsraAID, and other global partners.
Federation President Jay Sanderson stressed that the relief effort went beyond aiding Jewish brethren, of whom there are only seven in Haiti.
“In supporting the relief work of our Jewish and Israeli partners, we are not only helping the Haitian people, but are also spotlighting the charitable values of the Jewish community and Israel to people who might not otherwise know of the compassion of our community,” Sanderson said.
The Board of Rabbis of Southern California was mobilizing support through its network, cooperation with World Vision International, a Christian relief organization, and laying preliminary plans for a charity concert in February, executive vice president Rabbi Mark S. Diamond said.
Because of the chaotic situation in Haiti, outside volunteers are asked to stay away for the time being, but there are exceptions for skilled specialists.
At Valley Beth Shalom in Encino, a doctor-nurse couple will leave in early February for Haiti as part of a crisis team organized by the International Medical Alliance. In the meanwhile, the couple, which asked that their names be withheld, are looking for help in stockpiling trauma and other medical equipment. For information, visit www.IMAonline.org.
At Temple Israel of Hollywood, a member who works professionally for an international relief organization is also departing shortly for Haiti.
The Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center is taking on a special project through the initiative of Sisterhood board member Lindsay Wetmore-Arkader.
As a college student, she worked summers at the St. Joseph Home for Boys, which was totally destroyed in the quake. Temple members are now raising funds to rebuild the orphanage.
Another specific project is underway at Shalhevet School, a modern Orthodox yeshiva, where students, parents and faculty have raised close to $1,000 to purchase a Shelter Box, which consists of a tent and special equipment for up to 10 people. Student Erin Sharfman spearheads the project.
The Zimmer Children’s Museum is urging visiting students to drop coins or bills into its special “Tzedakah Machine.”
The Journal sent out e-mail queries to synagogues and other Jewish institutions asking about the participation in the relief program.
Of the respondents, most listed alerting members to donate through existing channels, including Congregation Or Ami in Calabasas, University Synagogue in Irvine, IKAR, Progressive Jewish Alliance, Simon Wiesenthal Center and Kehillat Israel.
In addition, various Orthodox institutions scheduled special prayers and Chessed (Kindness) projects for students, among them Young Israel of Century City, B’nai David-Judea Congregation, and the Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy.
Sinai Temple in Westwood has scheduled a blood drive for quake victims on Feb. 24, from 2-8 p.m. Donors are requested to make advance appointments by calling (310) 481-3243.