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Leading Jewish groups come to aid of Oklahoma tornado victims

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Footage of the Oklahoma City tornado on Tuesday. [YouTube]

UPDATED: Prominent national and international Jewish organizations are coming to the aid of the victims of the devastating tornado that ripped through the Oklahoma City region on May 20, with wind speeds of up to 200 miles per hour, killing 24 people, including nine children.

Despite the area being home to only some 5,000 Jews, local Jewish groups such as Chabad of Oklahoma City are doing their part to assist in disaster relief.

“The Oklahoma City community is very friendly toward Jews and incredibly supportive of Eretz Yisrael, and that is why we are especially committed to doing everything we can to help. We want there to be a noticeable response from our community,” Rabbi Ovadia Goldman told the Jewish Press on Tuesday morning.

Chabad has offered an array of help to those in need, including offers of shelter, monetary assistance, cellphones, food and clothing.

Meanwhile, other international Jewish organizations have opened relief funds for the victims of the tornado.

The Jewish Federations of North America announced Tuesday that it is setting up an Oklahoma City Tornado Relief Fund, dedicated to gathering aid from across the Jewish federation community. Donations can be made online or through local federations.

In Toronto, an e-blast sent by UJA Federation of Greater Toronto stated, “UJA’s fund will meet needs identified by the Jewish Federation of Greater Oklahoma City, and [it will] support the relief efforts of IsraAID: The Israel Forum for International Humanitarian Aid, an Israeli-based humanitarian organization that responds to emergencies all over the world, and has partnered with UJA of Greater Toronto regularly to help victims of natural disasters since the December 2005 tsunami in Southeast Asia.”

Steven Shulman, the Toronto federation’s campaign director and counsel, told The CJN that thousands of people have been traumatized by the tornado. He noted that IsraAID will be working with local relief people to address post-trauma relief.

“People want to have this opportunity to make a statement about Jewish values in response to terrible tragedies like this,” he said.

As well, the Canadian Council of Reform Judaism (CCRJ) is accepting donations as part of the Union for Reform Judaism’s (URJ) Oklahoma aid effort. Donations can be made at (click on “Disaster Relief Canada”).

Sandy Levy, CCRJ’s co-ordinator of programming and administration, told The CJN, “We’re just all devastated and saddened by the loss.”

In a May 21 news release, URJ announced that it is “working closely with our congregations in the affected region to assure the safety of their congregants, their neighbours, their structures and to determine next steps in relief work.”

“We are numb with grief, and yet inspired by the heroic resilience of the people of Oklahoma. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all those impacted by this horrific tragedy,” said URJ president Rabbi Rick Jacobs in the release. “For now, we will collect donations and distribute them to the American Red Cross and others on the ground in Oklahoma. As other needs arise, perhaps including volunteers to assist with the cleanup and rebuilding, we stand ready to help in any way possible.”

B’nai B’rith International has also opened its Flood, Tornado and Hurricane Disaster Relief Fund. This fund has helped victims of other major disasters such as Hurricane Sandy in 2012, and the earthquakes in Japan in 2011 and Haiti in 2010.

“No amount of advanced warning could have prepared the people of Moore for the horrors this storm has brought. We’re going to do our best to help these people get back on their feet,” B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said in a statement.

Donations to the B’nai B’rith International fund can be made online.

With files from Frances Kraft.


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