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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

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Calgary’s Jewish community, institutions largely unaffected by recent flooding

Tags: Canada calgary evacuation flood
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Three teens from Jewish Federation helping with the cleanup. All this debris is from one house

Flash flooding on June 20 that left large sections of Calgary underwater and led to the evacuation of up to 100,000 people spared most of the Jewish community and Jewish institutions.

“The Jewish community (numbering about 10,000) is based mainly in the southwest part of the city,” said Richard Bronstein, the owner/publisher of the Jewish Free Press, the community’s weekly newspaper. “We are on high ground. None of our institutions, synagogues or schools were affected,”

Bronstein’s comments were echoed by other members of the community. “The Jewish community is mostly in the southwest and was largely unaffected,” said Neil Silver. “Only those people living near one of the rivers (the Bow or the Elbow) were affected.”

Silver’s wife, the former Jemmie Gord, who is originally from Toronto, is head of school at the Webber Academy, a private school. The school itself wasn’t flooded, he reported, but many of the students and staff were affected.

“The flood came suddenly,” said Leah Craven, who lives in the southwest Calgary district known as Pump Hill with her husband, Steven London, and family. “We weren’t impacted but we had friends who were closer to the river whose homes were flooded and will be uninhabitable for quite some time.”

 Craven said that some of her children’s classmates and their families were woken from their sleep in the middle of the night and ordered to evacuate. “They weren’t given much notice,” she said. “Other families were notified Thursday afternoon to go home, gather some essentials and leave.”

While their homes were not directly affected, Neil Silver, Leah Craven and Steven London’s workplaces were. All three work downtown, which was part of the evacuation zone.

“Our buildings weren’t flooded, but they were without power, a lot of the bridges are impassable and most of the roads are barricaded,” said Craven, who is a lawyer, as is her husband. “Steven’s office has a back-up generator so his building has power and he can access the office from home. My office is without power.

“We are not sure how long it will be before power and access is restored.”

Silver works in the IT department at CP Rail in downtown Calgary. He expected to be able to get back to work after about a week. “How quickly you get access to buildings downtown depends on where the buildings are in relation to the Bow River,” he said.

While the Jewish community may have been largely unaffected, notes Richard Bronstein, the community’s institutions are organizing relief efforts for the unlucky Calgarians who were forced out of their homes by the flooding. “The community has issued a news release informing people of how to volunteer and where to sign up,” he said. “The community is working on raising money and gathering supplies for the relief effort.”

In a press release, Drew Staffenberg, the Calgary Jewish Federation’s executive director, noted that a number of businesses in the downtown core were affected so people have been told not to come back to work for a couple of weeks – which means they won’t have a salary. “Jewish Family Services is dealing with that and we’ve set up an emergency fund this morning to help,” he said.

“Volunteers are going into neighbourhoods we know have been affected. BBYO is involved and our older junior high kids at our day schools, and adults in the community. We are rallying and trying to move ahead.”

Bronstein praised Calgary’s emergency responders for their efforts, as well as Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi for his handling of the situation. “Our mayor has been holding frequent news conferences to keep people informed of the situation,” Bronstein said. “He has shown great compassion. He can teach people a thing or two about tikkun olam.”  

***

In the wake of the devastating floods that have submerged parts of southern Alberta, including large sections of Calgary, United Jewish Appeal of Greater Toronto has established the UJA Southern Alberta Flood Relief Fund to assist beleaguered flood victims.

Funds raised by UJA’s Southern Alberta Flood Relief Fund will go to those victims requiring immediate assistance such as temporary housing, as well as for food, drinking water, blankets, hygiene kits, cleanup efforts, and more.

To contribute to UJA's Southern Alberta Flood Relief Fund, visit ujadonations.com/Alberta or call 416-631-5705.

***

Federation CJA has announced the launch of the FCJA Southern Alberta Flood Relief Fund to assist beleaguered flood victims in southern Alberta.

Funds raised by the FCJA’s Southern Alberta Flood Relief Fund are for victims needing immediate assistance, such as temporary housing, food, drinking water, blankets, hygiene kits, cleanup efforts, and more. One hundred per cent of donations being distributed to those in need, in cooperation with Federations of Canada – UIA and Calgary's Jewish Federation, which is assessing needs on the ground.

Visit the Federation CJA link or call 514-345-2645 ext. 6460 for more details.

Large parts of Calgary were underwater. For more photos, go to bottom of story.

Silver’s wife, the former Jemmie Gord, who is originally from Toronto, is head of school at the Webber Academy, a private school. The school itself wasn’t flooded, he reported, but many of the students and staff were affected.

“The flood came suddenly,” said Leah Craven, who lives in the southwest Calgary district known as Pump Hill with her husband, Steven London, and family. “We weren’t impacted but we had friends who were closer to the river whose homes were flooded and will be uninhabitable for quite some time.”

 Craven said that some of her children’s classmates and their families were woken from their sleep in the middle of the night and ordered to evacuate. “They weren’t given much notice,” she said. “Other families were notified Thursday afternoon to go home, gather some essentials and leave.”

While their homes were not directly affected, Neil Silver, Leah Craven and Steven London’s workplaces were. All three work downtown, which was part of the evacuation zone.

“Our buildings weren’t flooded, but they were without power, a lot of the bridges are impassable and most of the roads are barricaded,” said Craven, who is a lawyer, as is her husband. “Steven’s office has a back-up generator so his building has power and he can access the office from home. My office is without power.

“We are not sure how long it will be before power and access is restored.”

Silver works in the IT department at CP Rail in downtown Calgary. He expected to be able to get back to work after about a week. “How quickly you get access to buildings downtown depends on where the buildings are in relation to the Bow River,” he said.

While the Jewish community may have been largely unaffected, notes Richard Bronstein, the community’s institutions are organizing relief efforts for the unlucky Calgarians who were forced out of their homes by the flooding. “The community has issued a news release informing people of how to volunteer and where to sign up,” he said. “The community is working on raising money and gathering supplies for the relief effort.”

In a press release, Drew Staffenberg, the Calgary Jewish Federation’s executive director, noted that a number of businesses in the downtown core were affected so people have been told not to come back to work for a couple of weeks – which means they won’t have a salary. “Jewish Family Services is dealing with that and we’ve set up an emergency fund this morning to help,” he said.

“Volunteers are going into neighbourhoods we know have been affected. BBYO is involved and our older junior high kids at our day schools, and adults in the community. We are rallying and trying to move ahead.”

Bronstein praised Calgary’s emergency responders for their efforts, as well as Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi for his handling of the situation. “Our mayor has been holding frequent news conferences to keep people informed of the situation,” Bronstein said. “He has shown great compassion. He can teach people a thing or two about tikkun olam.”  

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