The only good news associated with Hurricane Sandy, whose devastation will be felt for a very long time, is the response from caring people — professionals and volunteers — who have offered assistance, shown compassion and given of themselves in countless ways.
Our community can take pride in the inspiring response, and particularly the decision, announced by UJA-Federation of New York this week, that it will make up to $10 million available for relief efforts, the largest such allocation it has ever made to deal with a natural disaster.
“We wanted to make certain that our agencies, as well as synagogues, would continue to respond to the urgent needs and know that we would be there to back them up and cover their expenses,” John Ruskay, executive vice president and CEO of UJA-Federation, told us. “We didn’t want our agencies to hold back.”
The Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, the primary agency in the UJA-Federation network that deals with the needs of the poor, has been working around the clock to offer vital services. By Monday, thousands of pounds of food collected from its warehouse and from its partners at the Food Bank of New York and City Harvest were distributed; 5,000 hot meals were hand delivered by more than 100 volunteers; more than 100 residents in Seagate were evacuated and given emergency shelter; security was provided in neighborhoods where looting was a serious concern; a $30,000 matching fund was set up at Brachs Supermarket for people who needed assistance in the Rockaways; and many clients were helped with applications for emergency benefits.
Is $10 million enough to meet the needs of those victimized by Hurricane Sandy? Ruskay said an assessment will be made in a few months, and if additional funds are needed, UJA-Federation will do what it takes to help.
That’s what the largest charity of its kind is about, and its donors can feel gratified that they have helped provide the resources to respond when people are in need, whether in emergencies or in dealing with the daily struggles of life.
“When communities are in trouble,” noted Ruskay, “whether in New Orleans or Israel or here at home, we want to respond. We want to be present — on the ground.”
The ground is shifting these days, with many in our community facing a long period of rebuilding. It’s time for each of us to express our solidarity by doing whatever we can to help.
For information on donating to the Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund, go to www.ujafedny.org.