The Jewish Federations of Greater Portland has collected more than $9,500 in donations for the Oklahoma City Tornado Relief Fund it established last week, while checks are continuing to come in by mail. The generosity of this community is always amazing!
Last night, a Jewish Federation community in New Jersey, hard-hit by Hurricane Sandy, voted to contribute $5,000 to the JFNA fund because of the help its members received after the disaster last fall. "The Board’s feeling is that although we are not fully back on our feet, the community has a moral responsibility to participate in this small way… to acknowledge the support we received when the Jewish Community of Ocean County was in need," wrote Danny Goldberg, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Ocean County, N.J., on behalf of the board.
The tornado killed 24 people, damaged 13,000 homes and obliterated entire neighborhoods, and days later, Edie Roodman, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Oklahoma City, was still emotional in the face of what she described as an "overwhelming" situation. Roodman lives 12 minutes from Moore, the suburb that bore the brunt of the tornado’s wrath. She was spared, as was the Jewish community, which suffered no serious damage.
Nonetheless, Roodman, who has heard from at least four dozen Federations, has been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support, sympathy and offers of help from the community. "It is what keeps you going when you see such devastation around you. We have an incredible network of support that we take for granted."
"We rise up and help because it’s the right thing to do, and not one Jew has to be involved," Roodman continued. "It’s the Jewish sense of responsibility. That is the driving force for me."
Roodman hailed the spirit of collaboration and interdependence in Greater Oklahoma City, where Jews number 2,300. "If we were all we had, where would we be?" she asked, rhetorically. She will be working on relief efforts with longtime partners, including Habitat for Humanity, Oklahoma Regional Food Bank and Oklahoma City Beautiful, among others.
Roodman said the city is still reeling from the disaster and is in the earliest stages of assessing and prioritizing needs. She cautioned that, while the impulse is appreciated, it is too soon to send groups of volunteers because there is no infrastructure to support and direct them. She said the help most needed now is in the form of donations and $25 gift cards to national stores.
At the same time, Roodman is exploring ways the JFNA Emergency Committee may be of assistance, including providing counseling and support for responders and members of the media, as well as more direct trauma sufferers. "The JFNA Emergency Committee remains in constant contact with the Federation in Oklahoma City," said Cheryl Fishbein, chair of the committee. "We will be with them every step of the way as they reach out to help respond to those in the greater community affected by this devastating storm."