Sephardic Jewish Community Please
Help Katrina Victims
On this terrible week when thousands are feared dead, major towns have
suffered catastrophic damage, and an entire United States city has been
destroyed, we mourn with the mourners and stand with the survivors.
This is a time when we all should remember to be thankful for what we
have and consider supporting those that have-not. We need to aid those
that are helping to sustain the poor refugees that are walking the streets
in a daze of confusion. Although many of us feel helpless as we try
to comprehend what we see on our televisions, we can make a difference.
Our Sephardic tradition has always kept us a people of the world. Never
have we walled ourselves off and marginalized ourselves from the community
at large. It is our interaction with the greater society, while keeping
our adherence to the Torah, which is at the core of who the Sephardic
Jews are. In the past, when times of trouble arose, whether they were
natural disasters or manmade situations, we as Jews, Sephardim, always
took action and supported our communities. We remember that we prayed
to the Almighty seeking peace and security whether it was in the Balkans,
Britain, the lands of the Sultan, during the American Revolution or
during the hostilities in South Africa at the turn of the twentieth
century. We remember that we donated towards the Allied war campaign
and purchased a "Sephardic" bomber in WWII. Sephardim always
donated funds for those in need, Jewish or not. No matter what happened
in the community or against the countries where we resided, we stood
up and helped in one way or another. Prayers, charitable funds, they
are both important. After 9/11 the Sephardic community poured its heart
out, but now, while a different type of disaster faces us, the same
sort of response is quickly needed.
It has been reported there are almost 10,000 full-time Jewish residents
in New Orleans, not to mention a large population of Jewish students
attending colleges in the area. Approximately half of the full time
residents evacuated their homes in advance of the storm, but not everyone
was able to leave. The vast majority of the homes of members of the
Jewish community have been destroyed. As of today, 300 residents of
the Jewish Home for the Aging need emergency evacuation. At least one
synagogue in New Orleans, Shaar Hadash, is under water, and another
is heavily damaged. The Jewish communal services building has been destroyed.
The need for cash assistance, temporary housing, access to health care
and personal counseling are enormous. Beyond New Orleans, the Jewish
communities in Mobile, Biloxi and throughout the region also have similar
In the Mishna Torah, Maimonides defines the importance of gifts to
the poor and needy. In his rules and regulations related to this subject,
he writes, "anyone who can afford it must give charity according
to their needs." In addition, we know that the highest priority
for sedaka is for redeeming captives and saving lives; in this case,
the people are trapped, possibly tens of thousands of them. Funds raised
during this treacherous time go to the most important of all humanitarian
causes, saving lives.
There are many ways to help the relief effort now taking place in Southern
United States. As the rescues continue and thousands are feared dead,
we accept the fact that over 100,000 souls will eventually be homeless.
A donation of sedaka in any amount would be a nice way to take part
in the overall relief mission that will, sadly, take years to complete.
The Torah tells us, "When your brother becomes poor and he slips
down among you, you must come to his aid." This includes both Jews
If you have the means, please consider a donation to an organization
which directly will use the money for the relief effort, an organization
such as the American Red Cross. While many would like to donate to the
local Jewish communities that were affected, all communications are
down with those community and phone calls cannot be made there. The
American Red Cross can be reached at 800-HELP-NOW and a donation to
that organization would directly support the recovery and healing of
the New Orleans and Gulf Coast cities.