Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh Responds to Wildfire in Israel

Dec 03, 2010, 16:00 ET from United Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh

PITTSBURGH, Dec. 3, 2010 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As wildfires rage in Northern Israel, the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh has joined a North American effort to raise funds to provide critical services to those who have been hurt and displaced.

The overseas direct service partners of the Jewish Federation are currently assisting in the evacuation of those in immediate danger and will be instrumental in providing food, shelter, psychological support and other services in the short term and, in the long term, assistance in rebuilding the affected areas and assisting those most impacted by this tragedy.

One-hundred percent of contributions will go directly to help the victims and their families.

To make a donation, please phone 412.681.8000 during regular business hours or send a check, made payable to the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh - Israel Wildfire Relief to: Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, 234 McKee Place, Pittsburgh, PA 15213.

The fires, which began outside the Druze village of Usfiya on Thursday morning after a major heat wave, spread across the Carmel Mountain region. More than 15,000 people have been forced to evacuate and there have been, to date, 42 casualties, including 40 wardens traveling to the Damon Prison to help evacuate Israeli and Palestinian prisoners, who died instantly when their bus was engulfed in flames.

"Our Federation is making an immediate and significant impact by enabling our overseas direct service partners to be instrumental in relief and rescue efforts," said Brian Eglash, Senior Vice President, Financial Resource Development, at the Jewish Federation. "We have a long-standing relationship with both JAFI (the Jewish Agency for Israel) and JDC (the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee) as a result of our Annual Campaign, which provides dollars annually to address needs overseas.

"Our partners have been at work on the ground in Israel since the devastating wildfire began. If not for the Annual Campaign, these agencies would not have the infrastructure to respond immediately when a crisis arises."

The local Jewish Federation has joined in a continental effort being coordinated by The Jewish Federations of North America, which encompasses some 150 federations.

Relief efforts being supported in Israel include:

  • The Israel Trauma Coalition, supported by Jewish Federations, has set up an emergency center in Haifa and is working with firefighters, first-responders and rescuers. The ITC is fielding requests for assistance, deploying professionals to help with activities such as counseling, and among others has met with the prison authority after the bus carrying prison wardens to help evacuate Israeli and Palestinian prisoners from the Damon Prison near the fire was incinerated.
  • JAFI deployment of youth workers to assist 150 welfare families from Tirat HaCarmel, a community that was a beneficiary of support from the Pittsburgh Jewish community in a sister-city program during the 1970s and '80s. These youth workers will help ensure that children and teens are productively occupied during the period of their displacement.
  • The launch of JAFI day programs for children throughout the country to serve as many as 2,000 evacuee youth. Operated by professional youth workers, the programs will serve both Jewish and Druze children, as the Carmel region is one of the major population centers of Druze in Israel, and many of the evacuees are Druze.
  • JDC outreach to Israel's most vulnerable populations, including elderly, disabled and youth at risk, to assist in their evacuation, provide emotional support and ensure their urgent basic needs were addressed. 
  • JDC volunteer initiatives which will gear up to offer services needed in the aftermath of the fire, to address the financial toll on homes, communities, businesses and lives, as well as the emotional impact of the tragedy.
  • JDC deployment of local emergency response teams and psycho-social support for children and families.

"Pittsburgh has a special relationship with communities in Northern Israel, where the city of Karmiel and the Misgav region are connected to us through the Partnership 2000 program. We are hearing first-hand of the devastation and its impact in human terms from our colleague and friends in Israel," said Eglash.

"The holiday of Hanukkah, which we are now celebrating, is called the Festival of Lights, for the menorah and the candles we light each night to commemorate a miracle in ancient times.  But it is now a very dark time for Israel. Even as we do our best to offer tangible support, we can't help but pray for another miracle, the miracle of safety and well-being for our family in Israel."

SOURCE United Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh