United Jewish Communities allocated over $38,000 to Chabad-Lubavitch for its hurricane relief efforts in Southern Mississippi and for its chevra kaddisha, Jewish burial society, work in Louisiana.
The grant represents a step forward in the growing partnership between Chabad and United Jewish Communities, UJC, the organization representing 155 Jewish federations and 400 independent communities across North America. “We are pleased that the UJC has decided to support the important work of Chabad in southern Mississippi and Louisiana,” said Rabbi David Eliezrie, a Chabad representative in Orange County, CA, who worked with the UJC to facilitate the funding. “Chabad and UJC are the two largest national Jewish organizations. When we work together we have the potential to uplift Jewish life around the world.”
Chabad is one of the many organizations doing hurricane relief work with some funding from UJC. According to the Vice President for Jewish Renaissance and Renewal Eric Levine, “Lubavitch was unbelievable with its response in New Orleans and Mississippi,” he said. “They have shown that they are a willing partner, ready to act on issues of shared concern.”
Search and rescue, providing respectful burials for hurricane victims and emergency supplies were among the Chabad relief activities underwritten by the grant. On the eve of Rosh Hashanah, a call came in to Chabad-Lubavitch World Headquarters from the UJC: not only was the Jewish community in Diamondhead, Mississippi, still reeling from the affects of the hurricanes, they had no challah bread for the holiday. “UJC heard the call, and Chabad had the foot soldiers,” said Rabbi Eliezrie. Chabad re-routed its truck of holiday and relief supplies to the area.
Four o’clock in the morning, while the rest of Diamondhead slept, Sue Halperin waited for Chabad’s fourteen foot refrigerated truck to arrive. “We gave her enough so every Jew in Mississippi could have challah for Rosh Hashanah,” said Mendy Stone, a Chabad-Lubavitch volunteer from Brooklyn, NY. “You got the feeling that we were giving them more than bread, we were symbols of the fact that the Jewish community remembers them and what they were going through.”
Stone and his colleague Mendy Lieberman had driven their rented diesel fueled truck 36 hours straight from New York to be on time to help Chabad representatives conduct Rosh Hashanah services in Louisiana. Five pallets of bread, cakes, cookies and soup, fish, chicken and meat filled the truck’s hold to capacity. Lieberman and Stone stopped only to refuel at truck stops and received kudos for their dedication from truckers along the way. Part of their supplies went to a congregation in Baton Rouge, but the rest went to feed 200 Jews who gathered to usher in the New Year with community prayer services.
Chabad’s grant was a slice of the $21.5 million the UJC has raised for hurricane relief. “When we determine needs, we respond,” said UJC Senior Vice-President Barry Swartz, who has helped coordinate the disaster relief effort. “We have an obligation to allocate the money we raise wisely, so that it is used to address the most critical of needs–both short and long term.”
Aside from the grant from UJC, Jewish federations around the country have been part of Chabad-Lubavitch’s relief effort. Orange County Jewish Federation in California presented a $10,000 grant for Chabad of New Orleans. In Baton Rouge, LA, the Federation provided Chabad relief workers with an apartment for the duration of their stay.
Cooperation between Chabad-Lubavitch and the UJC will continue at this year’s General Assembly, the UJC’s premier annual event, where three Chabad-Lubavitch representatives appear on panels at GA forum sessions.