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Monday, October 5, 2015

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Jewish groups help after Chilean earthquake

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TORONTO — United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ), in partnership with Masorti Olami, is among the Jewish organizations raising funds to help victims of the 8.8 magnitude earthquake that struck Chile on Feb. 27, as it did following the January earthquake in Haiti.

To donate to relief efforts in Chile through Jewish federations, see below or contact your local federation.
In Toronto, go to ujadonations.com/chile, or call 416-631-5705.
In Montreal, go to federationcja.org/en/chile, or call 514-345-2600.
In Winnipeg, call 477-7428, or go to jewishwinnipeg.org.

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To donate through Ve’ahavta, call 416-964-7698.

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To donate through USCJ and receive a Canadian tax receipt, send a cheque to the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, Chile Earthquake Relief Fund, Attention: Rhonda Schild, 1000 Finch Ave. W., Suite 508, Toronto, Ont. M3J 2V5.

Although the Masorti synagogue in Concepcion, close to the earthquake’s epicentre, was destroyed, the infrastructure of Chile’s Jewish community overall suffered little damage. There are an estimated 16,000 Jews in Chile, mostly in Santiago, the capital.

The head of the international Masorti organization, Rabbi Tzvi Graetz, circulated an e-mail last week saying that the walls of the synagogue were cracked and the roof caved in.  

The country-wide death toll from the earthquake was reported to be more than 700 as of March 1. But overall, there was less structural damage and significantly fewer deaths than in Haiti and its capital, Port-au-Prince, in January, even though the quake in Chile was much more powerful.

Chabad-Lubavitch, which has an outpost in Santiago, saw some structural damage to its building. World ORT, which runs two vocational schools in Chile, reported that damage to the Jewish community appeared to be minimal.

Unlike Haiti, one of the world’s poorest countries, Chile is wealthier and much better developed.

However, noted Howard English, spokesperson for UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, which has set up a Chile relief fund, “there are still relief and rescue operations required, and medical treatment is needed.”

Israel is in contact with its ambassador in Chile, according to Ynet, and the government sent its condolences in a statement. Israel was among the first countries to help in Haiti.

Linda Kislowicz, CEO of UIA Federations Canada – through which funds raised by UJA Federation of Greater Toronto are being funnelled – told The CJN last Thursday that she had been in touch with the shaliach in Santiago for UIAFC’s affiliate, Keren Hayesod, following the earthquake.

“The community is obviously traumatized,” Kislowicz told The CJN. “It doesn’t appear that there’s any loss of life in the Jewish community. People are living in a variety of makeshift situations. Some are in their homes, but without electricity.”

She was expecting to be briefed in more detail this week. “It might be that we would play some role in helping restore the Jewish infrastructure that has been damaged. We’re still gathering information… The first line [of help] would be humanitarian… for all,” Kislowicz said.

“While the devastation may not be at the level of what was experienced in Haiti, the impact and trauma is nonetheless significant and demanding of our support.”

As of last Friday afternoon, UJA Federation of Greater Toronto had collected $11,000 for the Israel Forum for International Humanitarian Aid (IsrAID), which sent a search-and-rescue team from Israel to Haiti following the January earthquake there, and was preparing to send a team to Chile as well.

The federation has collected about $1.1 million for relief in Haiti, English said last week.

In Montreal, Federation CJA has created a link on its website for online contributions to a Chilean relief fund. Proceeds will be sent to the American-Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, said federation spokesperson Howard Kosnick.

The Jewish Federation of Winnipeg has also established a relief fund, with money raised being sent to the Joint Distribution Committee of the Jewish Federations of North America.

Likewise, Ve’ahavta – the Canadian Jewish Humanitarian and Relief Committee has set up a fund to assist the people of Chile. Donations will be distributed through the Jewish Coalition for Disaster Relief to partner agencies that are providing crisis relief in Chile.

As well, Ve’ahavta president Avrum Rosensweig told The CJN that his organization would be prepared to respond further, as it has in other situations over the past 13 years. “We have the ability to send pharmaceuticals, and human resources [like] a doctor or a medical team, and whatever else is needed. At this point in time, the requests are not of that nature.”

With files from JTA, and Janice Arnold.


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