Emergencies Around the World
When need arises, the Jewish community of St. Louis plays a vital role in providing financial assistance to fund urgently needed basics like food and medicine, and long-term aid like trauma counseling.
This page will help you find proven resources to direct your contributions to areas of humanitarian crises, locally or internationally, whether the disasters be natural or man-made.
- Violence in Israel and Gaza
- Hurricane Dorian
- Fires in Israel
- Tornadoes in Missouri
- Chabad of Poway
- Sri Lanka Attacks
- Tropical Cyclone in Mozambique
- New Zealand Shooting
- Attacks in Israel
- Wildfires in California
- Pittsburgh Shooting
- Hurricane Michael
- Indonesia Tsunami & Earthquake
- Hurricane Florence
November 13, 2019 | 8:30 am
From the Desk of Eric D. Fingerhut
President & CEO, The Jewish Federations of North America
Israel Crisis Update from JFNA
(L to R) Israeli children on a bus take shelter during a siren; The IDF inspects the site of a rocket landing on a main road; Paramedics arrive at a home hit by a rocket. (Photos courtesy of MDA).
Here are the major developments:
- More than 250 rockets have been fired at Israel by Palestinian Islamic Jihad since 6:00am Tuesday, Israel time. o Despite a six-hour lull overnight, the rockets resumed early Wednesday morning.
- Sirens have continued to sound across the south, and have also been heard in a number of locations near the Jerusalem – Tel Aviv highway corridor.
- Some 60% of rockets fell in non-populated areas (or fell short, landing inside the Gaza Strip).
- 90% of those rockets headed towards population centers were successfully knocked out of the sky by the Iron Dome Defense System.
- Forty eight Israelis have been hurt by rocket fire or by falls when running to a shelter (mostly sustaining light or moderate injuries) and at least 25 people have been treated for shock.
- In response to the rocket fire, the IDF carried out three waves of retaliatory attacks on Palestinian Islamic Jihad targets. o In the attacks, Israel reportedly hit dozens of Islamic Jihad sites across Gaza, destroying infrastructures and weapons stockpiles as well as killing 12 terrorists (according the Palestinian Ministry of Health).
- Among other targets hit by the IDF were a facility that develops long-range rockets, as well as naval vessels belonging to the terrorist group.
- According to an unnamed Israeli military source, the IDF has a “rich data bank” of additional potential Islamic Jihad sites that it can continue to hit.
- Defense Minister Naftali Bennett, less than 24 hours in his new position, appeared on Israeli television saying that “We are sending a strong and clear message to our enemies, on all fronts: Whoever plans to attack or harm Israel by day, should never be sure that they will make it through the night.”
- Prime Minister Netanyahu said, “We are not bent on escalation, but… will respond to every attack against us, and respond very sharply. Islamic Jihad would do well to understand this right now, instead of when it will be too late. I believe that Islamic Jihad is starting to internalize this message. They understand that we will continue to strike them without mercy. They understand that Israel is very strong and that our will is very great. We are determined to fight to defend our country and if they think that these barrages or these strikes will weaken us or lessen our determination, they are mistaken. Therefore, they have but one choice – to stop these attacks or take more and more blows. The choice is theirs.”
- According to reports, Israel sent a message to Hamas saying that if the terror group stays out of the current fighting, it would be not be targeted by the IDF. This is a seemingly different approach than the one that Israel has taken in the past, where the IDF had stated that it holds Hamas responsible for everything that occurs in the Gaza Strip. From all accounts, both sides are keeping to this understanding, and there has been no direct conflict between Hamas and Israel in this round of fighting. (In fact, some commentators have suggested that Hamas is even encouraging the current fighting as a way of curtailing the strength of its rival, Islamic Jihad).
- While the IDF says that it does not want the situation to escalate into a broader military operation inside the Gaza Strip, there has been a small increase in troop deployment along the Gaza border fence with a limited number of companies and battalions.
- The IDF’s Home Front Command continues to impose restrictions: o All schools and kindergartens south of Tel Aviv remain closed.
- In the south, all places of work, other than “essential services,” have been shuttered.
- In the Tel Aviv region, school has resumed, but non-essential places of work are only permitted to open if they have a designated shelter or protected place that can be reached by workers within 90 seconds.
- Economic damage to industry – mainly as a result of lost working time – after just one day of conflict, has been assessed at $80 million.
- JFNA’s Israel office continues to operate under emergency protocols and is in close touch with relevant Israeli government branches, our partners, and individual federation representatives on the ground. o JFNA’s Israel office attended a meeting yesterday afternoon of the Emergency Coordination Roundtable (known by its Hebrew acronym, “Rahel”) at IDF military headquarters in Tel Aviv.
- JDC is in the middle of a process of reaching out to municipalities in the South to asses needs. JDC has also opened the Virtual Center for Independent Living, which is a hotline for elderly residents living alone who may need special help, advice or counseling during the current emergency situation. The hotline was established with the support of a Jewish Federations grant. In addition, the JDC Ashalim program has recently trained social workers who work with families at risk, to provide special care during emergency situations and crises. The social workers are provided with a special emergency kit, which has proved – over the last 24 hours – to be extremely effective.
- The Jewish Agency’s Fund for Victims of Terror (supported by Jewish Federations) has already provided immediate emergency assistance to families whose homes in the south have suffered direct hits. Within hours of yesterday’s attacks, the Agency’s Amigour subsidiary sent construction teams to repair homes hit by rocket fire, in coordination with the Ministry of Finance.
- The Jewish Agency has also provided assistance to 6,500 new immigrants in absorption centers and 5,000 seniors in assisted living facilities in areas affected by the current crisis. At the same time The Agency is in talks with local municipalities in the south discussing the possibility of respite days for residents of the affected areas.
- The Israel Trauma Coalition’s resilience centers continue to experience a significant increase in emergency calls. The Natal and Eran hotlines are operating at full capacity, 24 hours a day, and are currently reporting a 40% increase in call volume. Over 50% of calls are coming from the center of the country, 20% from the South and 15% from the North. Most calls are from anxious parents seeking guidance as to how to speak with their children about the situation. ITC instructions that provide recommendations on to how to help children cope in times of crisis, have been widely disseminated.
As always, JFNA’s Israel office remains in close touch with Israeli government authorities and our partners and is very closely monitoring the situation.
Eric D. Fingerhut
President & CEO
The Jewish Federations of North America
Sources: Office of the Prime Minister, Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, IDF Spokesperson, Israel Channel 12 News, Galei Tzahal Radio, the Jerusalem Post
November 12, 2019 | 6:02 pm
From the Jewish Community Relations Council
Israel e-Update from the JCRC
Obviously, the number-one topic that is dominating our hearts, minds, and news feeds are the rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel. Indiscriminate attacks against civilian populations aim to incite fear and terror within those populations, turning everyday acts such as driving to the store and going to school into dangerous activities that could result in harm and even death.
News sources report that the rockets began targeting Israeli civilians at about 5 a.m. Tuesday, an hour after what the Israel Defense Forces called a “surgical strike” on Baha Abu al-Ata in Gaza City. Baha Abu al-Ata was killed in a joint operation carried out by the Israel Defense Forces and the Shin Bet security service, during which the commander in charge of the most recent slew of rocket attacks against Israel and his wife were killed in their home. In a statement, the IDF said that Abu al-Ata was a “ticking time bomb” with plans to carry out rocket attacks and other terrorist activities against Israel “in the coming days,” and also was directly responsible for several cases of rocket fire from Gaza on southern Israel over the past six months. Close to 200 rockets have been reported fired upon Israel.
The Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted at least 60 of the rockets. Several homes sustained direct hits or damage from the rockets, as did a factory and a highway. About 25 Israelis were hurt in the Gaza rockets salvoes, some of which reached as far as Tel Aviv.
Schools from communities on the border with Gaza in the south all the way to Tel Aviv in the country’s center were ordered closed on Tuesday, leaving more than 1 million children at home.
Several hours after the rockets, the IDF carried out three waves of retaliatory attacks on Gaza. Palestinian Wafa news agency said five Palestinians were killed and dozens injured in the retaliatory airstikes. Earlier in the day defense officials said that if Islamic Jihad restrained itself and Hamas did not join the rocket fire, Israel would also hold back from escalating and carry out retaliatory strikes against Hamas.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a televised address to the nation that the Security Cabinet approved the strike on Abu al-Ata 10 days ago, saying the Palestinian terrorist leader was planning more and imminent rocket attacks on Israel. He said the IDF was told to strike when it found an opportunity.
There are several sources you can consult for timely updates (in reverse alphabetical order):
Statements (in alphabetical order):
Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett
US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman
URJ President Rabbi Rick Jacobs
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Vice President Mike Pence
President Reuven Rivlin
News articles (for further reading):
November 12, 2019 | 1:55 pm
Lives Updates from Haaretz.com
Live Updates: Amid Israel-Gaza Mediation Efforts, Islamic Jihad Warns ‘Coming Hours Will Mark Victory’ for Palestinians
More than 190 launched at Israel, after senior official, wife die in targeted assassination | House takes direct hit at Gaza border community | 30 Palestinians wounded in Israeli strikes | U.S. envoy to the Mideast expresses support for Israel
In one of the most serious flare-ups between Israel and the Gaza Strip in months, Israel confirmed Tuesday that it had killed the commander of the Islamic Jihad group in the coastal enclave, sparking a fierce response from Gaza militants.
Baha Abu al-Ata was killed in a joint operation carried out by the Israel Defense Forces and the Shin Bet security service, during which the commander in charge of the most recent slew of rocket attacks against Israel and his wife were killed in their home.
Shortly after Islamic Jihad and Hamas vowed to retaliate, a barrage of rockets was launched at southern and central Israel, activating sirens across half the country. The Israeli military said that 50 rockets have been launched at Israel since Tuesday morning, 20 of which were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system.
Three more Palestinians were killed and 30 were wounded in strikes the Israeli military conducted in the Strip during the day, Gaza’s Health Ministry said.
Israel is preparing for further escalation. Schools and all non-essential work were cancelled throughout the targeted areas. Local authorities have ordered the opening of shelters wherever necessary.
21:36 P.M. Three Palestinians killed in Israeli strike in northern Gaza
The bodies of three Palestinians were found at a site struck by Israel near Beit Lahia in the northern Strip, raising death toll to eight.
9:14 P.M. Gaza rocket barrage fired at Ashkelon, nearby communities
9:05 P.M. Israeli aircraft attacks Islamic Jihad rocket launch post in northern Gaza
An Israeli aircraft struck an underground Islamic Jihad rocket launch post in northern Gaza, from which rockets were fired at Israel earlier, the army said.
8:41 P.M. Islamic Jihad spokesperson says coming hours ‘will mark Palestinian victory’
Abu Hamza, spokesperson for Islamic Jihad’s military wing, said that the “coming hours will mark victory for the Palestinian people. Israel began this campaign, buy it will be notified when it ends.”
November 12, 2019 | 11:47 pm
From the Desk of Isaac Herzog
Chairman of the Executive, The Jewish Agency for Israel
Israel Under Fire – A Special Message from Isaac Herzog
Iraelis take cover as missile sirens blare in central Israel. Photo: Hasifa School of Photography / Edi Israel
Dear Friends and Partners,
Israel is once again embroiled in a round of fighting.
At 4:00 a.m. Israel time, the IDF attacked and killed vicious Islamic Jihad leader, Baha Abu el-Ata, who was responsible for planning and executing attacks against Israeli citizens, including last weekend’s attack in Sderot. About two hours later, at 6:00 a.m., terrorists fired a massive barrage of rockets on Tel Aviv, Rishon Letziyon, Rehovot, Ashdod, Ashkelon and communities along the Gaza border. The rocket fire continues as of this writing.
As of now, nearly 30 people have been lightly injured due to the rocket fire. School has been canceled in the greater Tel Aviv area, the Shfela region and in southern Israel, with close to one million children remaining home today. The Home Front Command also instructed residents of these areas to refrain from going to non-essential workplaces, a directive that was technically later canceled, but resulted in most people staying home and massively impacting Israel’s economy. Millions of Israeli citizens stayed close to bomb shelters today, and normal routines were dramatically disrupted. By 1:00 p.m. Israel time, more than 200 rockets were fired at Israel, and fire continues. Most of the rockets fired at Israel were intercepted by the Iron Dome system, but some hit homes (where luckily the residents had taken shelter in reinforced rooms) and even kindergartens. It is painful to think about what would have happened had these children not remained at home.
The Jewish Agency’s professional security staff have been in direct contact with Israel’s National Emergency Authority and Home Front Command since early this morning, remaining constantly updated on the appropriate protective measures required in the wake of the ongoing rocket fire.
Jewish Agency absorption centers and other integration programs that operate in southern and central Israel house close to 6,500 new olim (immigrants) who’ve recently arrived from around the world. In addition, about 7,700 young people from overseas are currently in Israel as part of Israel experience programs, including Masa Israel Journey, a joint project of the Government of Israel and The Jewish Agency. This morning, all olim and Masa participants received a refresher briefing on proper conduct during a missile attack and are remaining in proximity to secured areas. The Jewish Agency and Masa are in close contact with all program staff, closely following developments and providing any support needed.
Amigour, The Jewish Agency’s housing program for senior citizens and other vulnerable populations serves about 5,000 seniors, mostly Holocaust survivors. They live in assisted living facilities located throughout Israel. Dedicated staff are supporting these residents in accordance with official emergency guidelines. Earlier, shrapnel from an intercepted rocket fell near the entrance of an Amigour assisted living facility for seniors in Ashdod. Luckily, residents of the facility had evacuated to a reinforced area when the shrapnel fell.
The Jewish Agency’s Fund for the Victims of Terror is prepared to provide immediate aid to citizens in need, in coordination with Israel’s emergency services and municipal agencies. The Fund’s staff have been in contact with a family from Netivot whose home was directly hit by a rocket. Thankfully they are not injured, but their home suffered significant damage. They will already receive emergency financial assistance in the coming hours.
As of this morning, The Jewish Agency Situation Room has been working in emergency mode, providing guidance to The Jewish Agency’s professional staff who oversee program participants from Israel and overseas, including those in the Kol Ami and Ofek Pre-Army Academies.
We are prepared for the possibility that this emergency situation may continue for some time. In times of crisis, The Jewish Agency conducts an emergency leadership forum to ensure everyone is updated and all needs are being met. This forum, headed by Jewish Agency Chief Operating Officer Yehuda Setton, began to operate as soon as the events commenced and will continue to do so, even several times daily, as necessary.
At times like this, we know and feel the support of the entire Jewish family. I was very moved this morning at the JFNA FedLab, standing side by side with JFNA President and CEO Eric Fingerhut and Chair of the Board of Trustees Mark Wilf, to hear such unwavering support for the people of Israel during this difficult time. Our unity is our greatest strength and will carry us through these difficult times.
Let us pray for peaceful days ahead.
Chairman of the Executive
The Jewish Agency for Israel
November 12, 2019 | 9:28 am
From the Desk of Eric D. Fingerhut
President & CEO, The Jewish Federations of North America
Israel Update from JFNA’s Israel Office
Home Front Command soldiers assisting in the evacuation of the children’s ward in Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon.
As you are probably aware, there has been a major flare-up in violence between Israel and Gaza in recent hours. Here are the major points:
- Overnight, the IDF bombed a building in the Gaza Strip in a highly targeted strike which killed senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad Leader Bahaa Abu Al-Ata, as well as his wife.
- The attack hit the specific room where Al-Ata was located, leaving the rest of the building undamaged.
- Baha Abu Al Ata was a senior leader in the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. He was responsible for perpetrating the vast majority of terrorist attacks against Israel from the Gaza Strip in 2019.
- These terrorist attacks included a barrage of rocket fire. Between May 4 and May 5 2019, Israeli Memorial Day, the PIJ launched over 600 rockets at Israeli civilian centers, striking Israeli roads, homes, businesses, a kindergarten and hospital. Throughout 2019, over 800 rockets and mortar shells were launched at Israel from the Gaza Strip.
- IDF photos of the Gaza attack, as well as additional background on Al-Ata can be seen here.
- Security officials confirmed that after a green light from the security cabinet over a week ago, they identified a specific window of opportunity to strike Al Ata in his bed, without risking nearby civilians.
- Netanyahu on the attack: “Terrorists think they can hit civilians and hide behind civilians. We showed that we can hit the terrorist with minimal damage to civilians. Anyone who thinks they can hit our civilians and get away with it is wrong. If you hit us we will hit you.”
- The IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi said that al-Ata was the person who tried to undermine Israel’s efforts to reach a ceasefire with Hamas in the Gaza Strip. “In recent days he was working to perpetrate attacks against Israel. We tried to thwart his efforts in different ways without success and we then recommended a targeted killing.”
- In addition, another senior Islamic Jihad figure was attacked in Damascus, but details of that event are still unclear.
- In response, more than 150 rockets have been fired at Israel over the last few hours (since 6:00 am Israel time) and the barrage continues – on almost a minute-by-minute basis – at the time of writing.
- Sirens have continued to sound across the south, and as far north as Tel Aviv, Modi’in, Rishon L’Tzion, the Rehovot area and Holon.
- An eight-year-old girl in Holon is in serious condition after suffering what seems to be heart failure while running to her shelter; and a 66-year old woman is in hospital suffering from shock. One man in Be’er Tuvia was lightly injured by shrapnel.
- A house in Netivot was directly hit and has sustained major damage; but there were no injuries.
- A factory in Sderot also sustained a direct hit, but there too there were no injuries.
- Some other minor property damage has been reported, mainly in Sderot; but at this stage, most rockets have either fallen short or been destroyed by the Iron Dome, which has shot down more than 60 rockets in recent hours.
- These video images (taken from a bus) show the terrifying moment that a rocket hit Highway 4.
- The IDF’s Home Front Command (known in Hebrew as Pikud Ha’Oref) has issued some far-reaching orders:
- All schools and kindergartens in the entire country south of Tel Aviv have been closed for the day.
- In the south, all places of work have been closed, other than “essential services.”
- In the Tel Aviv region, non-essential places of work are only permitted to open if they have a designated shelter or protected place that can be reached by workers within 90 seconds.
- With schools and many work places closed, hundreds of thousands of workers remain at home (resulting in enormous cost to the economy).
- Large cities in the south, including Ashkelon, Ashdod and Be’er Sheva have ordered public shelters to be opened, and have set up their Emergency Command Rooms.
- Train services have been stopped in much of the south, and a number of roads have been closed.
- See below for a photo of Home Front Command soldiers assisting in the evacuation of the children’s ward inBarzilai Hospital in Ashkelon.
- (In a sign of Israeli “gallows humor,” a meme is circulating in Hebrew that reads: “Well if schools are already closed, and it’s Tuesday, we may as well hold elections.”)
- The Cabinet has been meeting with top military officials throughout the morning.
- In an interesting issue of timing, Naftali Bennett officially became defense minister at 11am Israel time (in the middle of the crisis). Until then, Prime Minister Netanyahu continued to act as defense minister.
- Prime Minister Netanyahu and IDF chiefs have stated that they would like to prevent further escalation of the situation, but that they will do what is needed to defend Israel.
- Blue and White leader Benny Gantz was informed of the targeted hit on Al-Atta before it took place.
- At the time of writing, initial reports indicate that the IDF has begun attacking Islamic Jihad targets in Gaza in retaliation for the massive rocket barrage.
- JFNA’s Israel office has activated emergency protocols and is in close touch with our partners and individualfederation representatives on the ground.
- There are currently no Federation missions travelling under JFNA auspices or Birthright groups in Israel.
- Two JFNA-organized VIP visits are in Israel, but neither are in areas under fire, and the Israel office is in touch with both.
- Jewish Agency absorption centers have begun operating in “emergency mode,” meaning that activities take place only within range of a shelter. The Agency is also reaching out to all programs to determine immediate needs.
- JDC is also currently gathering information and assessing needs from the field.
- The Israel Trauma Coalition’s resilience centers have naturally experienced a significant increase in emergency calls. One of the buildings where the resilience center operates (in Sderot) was hit and evacuated. There are no physical injuries reported, and workers continue to operate from a different location in the city.
- Israel’s Emergency Coalition Roundtable (known by its Hebrew acronym “Rachel;” and of which JFNA is a partner) will convene the Civil Society Emergency Forum at 3pm Israel time.
As always, JFNA’s Israel office is in close touch with Israeli government authorities and our partners and is very closely monitoring the situation.
Eric D. Fingerhut
President & CEO
The Jewish Federations of North America
Source: Office of the Prime Minister, Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, IDF Spokesperson, Israel Channel 12 News, Galei Tzahal Radio, The Jerusalem Post
September 5, 2019
JDC Responds to Hurricane Dorian in Bahamas
Following the catastrophic devastation wrought by Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas, JDC will provide emergency medical supplies through its partner the Afya Foundation and is raising funds for these and other critical needs, including recovery and reconstruction initiatives. To tailor its response to the evolving situation on the ground, JDC has activated its network of partners and is assessing the situation in consultation with these local and international agencies.
Of the 68-countries where JDC has responded to crises and disasters during its history, it has recently deployed humanitarian aid and disaster mitigation initiatives in Mozambique, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Mexico, the Philippines, and the Caribbean.
JDC’s disaster relief programs are funded by special appeals of the Jewish Federations of North America and tens of thousands of individual donors to JDC. Relief efforts of JDC are coordinated with the U.S. Department of State, USAID, the Israeli government and the United Nations, as well as local and international partners.
You can donate to help victims at jdc.org/disasters/#donate.
May 28, 2019 | 3:38 pm
From the Desk of Jerry Silverman
President & CEO, The Jewish Federations of North America
A Message from the Jewish Federations of North America about the Fires in Israel
JFNA’s Israel Office reports that the wildfires which broke out in Israel yesterday afternoon have been brought under control, though the nation remains on high alert due to a combination of extreme high temperatures and renewed kite arson from Gaza. Authorities suspect an electrical fault may have caused one of the fires and that improperly extinguished Lag B’Omer bonfires may also have triggered some of the blazes. Public warnings have been issued asking people to avoid lighting campfires and calling for caution with regard to construction work and other activities that might inadvertently ignite brushfires.
Dozens of fire crews worked in tandem with 12 planes and 2 helicopters to battle the flames as they spread to residential areas. The Prime Minister issued a limited call for international assistance yesterday and firefighters from Greece, Croatia and Cyprus are en route while crews from both the Palestinian Authority and Egypt are already working alongside Israeli firefighters. News reports indicate that Russia has also volunteered help.
Approximately 3500 residents were evacuated in the wake of the fires including from Gimzo, Shilat, Kfar Rut, Neot Kedumim, Kfar Daniel, Mevo Modi’im, Kibbutz Harel and the Adam IDF base. Some families spent the night in the Ben Shemen Youth Village while others found shelter with friends and family. Social workers were on hand to assist people with the emotional trauma brought on by the fires.
The worst damage was sustained in Mevo Modi’im and Kibbutz Harel with dozens of homes damaged or destroyed. Fortunately, there was no loss of life and only minimal injuries have been reported as a result of the fires. Neighboring woodlands, however, were burnt, and the local animal population was also hit hard. Several roads remained closed this morning including the stretch of Road 443 between Ben Shemen and Modi’in in both directions.
As of 8:00 am Israel time, residents of Gimzo, Shilat and Kfar Daniel were allowed to begin making their way home again. Niv Vizel, Mayor of the Mateh Yehuda Regional Council where the bulk of the damage occurred, has offered to help place those who cannot return home with host families in the area. The Ministry for Social Equality activated an emergency hotline which operated this morning enabling families willing to take in senior citizens evacuated from their homes because of the wildfires to be matched with needy elderly.
Gilad Erdan, Minister of Public Security, and the Prime Minister are meeting with top firefighting and police officials to determine if additional emergency response measures are needed. A major concern is that fires could reignite as a result of the continuing harsh weather conditions.
JFNA staff are in contact with our main partners at the Jewish Agency and JDC as well as RAHEL – the National Emergency Authority. Mateh Yehudah is partnered with the South African Jewish community through the Jewish Agency’s P2G framework, and our colleagues at JAFI are working with them regarding the developing situation.
Best wishes and Shabbat Shalom,
May 28, 2019 | 3:51 pm
From The Washington Post
Donations appreciated to RedCross.org/Local/Missouri.html
Violent tornadoes lash Missouri, killing 3 and causing extensive damage
By Timothy Bella, Katie Mettler
The sign for the Hidden Oaks apartment complex in Jefferson City stands bent in front of a tree that was ripped apart. (David A. Lieb/AP)
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The day after violent tornadoes ripped through parts of Missouri, authorities in the Jefferson City area and other parts of the state sifted through debris and swept the most devastated residential areas searching for people in need of aid.
About two dozen people were reportedly injured when the “wedge” tornado — which looks wider than it is tall — ripped through the capital at 11:43 p.m. Wednesday. The twister left a 3-square-mile trail of destruction. Authorities had received reports of collapsed apartment complexes and shredded mobile homes. People called to say they were trapped in their homes. Yet, there were no reported fatalities.
Earlier in the night, tornadoes flew around southwest Missouri, near the Oklahoma border, setting off alarms in Joplin, where on the same date eight years earlier a tornado killed 161 people. Tornadoes caused damage in nearby town of Carl Junction and landed a deadly blow in the town of Golden City, where three people were killed. The Missouri State Highway Patrol identified the victims as Kenneth Harris, 86; Opal Harris, 83; and Betty Berg, 56. Berg’s husband, 56-year-old Mark Berg, also suffered serious injuries in the storm, Ozarks First reported.
“We were very fortunate last night that we didn’t have more injuries than what we had, and that we didn’t have more fatalities across the state,” Gov. Mike Parson (R) said at news conference.
President Trump tweeted that Missouri residents are “strong and resilient.”
The destruction in Jefferson City is the latest in a week of severe storms across the central United States. There were more than 60 tornado reports and nearly 400 river gauges in the region had exceeded flood stage as of Wednesday, resulting in several deaths and inundated communities, The Washington Post’s Jason Samenow reported.
Across Jefferson City on Thursday, the power was out, the gas had been turned off and dazed residents wandered the streets, stepping around the fallen trees that now obstructed their neighborhood streets.
In the center of East Dunklin Street, a windblown Mickey Mouse stuffed animal sat soaking wet. Twenty yards away was a home with no roof. Fallen power lines draped the pavement, and an uprooted cross walk sign lay on a front lawn. Broken windows outnumbered intact ones.
“It’s devastation right now,” Jerri Bowles, who lives in the state capital, said Thursday. “Jefferson City hasn’t had a tornado in many, many, many years, and we all had this false sense of security that tornadoes just don’t happen here. So last night we had our eyes opened.”
Before midnight Wednesday, the National Weather Service had urged Jefferson City residents to “shelter now!” as the tornado moved at 40 mph through the central Missouri region and shot debris about 13,000 feet into the air.
Eric Wright of Jefferson City took refuge in his basement as the tornado went by, but not before he caught a glimpse of the storm.
“It was this neon, turquoise green,” he said Thursday afternoon, across the street from his damaged house. “It was beautiful in a scary way.”
Melvin Eldridge, who lives in the same neighborhood, woke to leaves hitting his face. The tornado had blown out part of his air conditioner, exposing his first-story apartment to gusts of wind.
“It sounded like a train was coming,” Eldridge recalled, adding that he waited in his bathtub for the storm to pass.
Nearby, Steve James woke his two sons and ushered them from the second floor to ground level.
As he reached the bottom of the stairs, the house started shaking. The family hid in a first-floor bathroom, huddled in the tub. Wind blew loose a door that landed on the steps James had just descended, and a metal railing leading to the front porch broke from the gusts. The front windows shattered.
“How can 15, 20 seconds cause this?” he said Thursday afternoon while sitting in front of his damaged house.
Despite the widespread damage, authorities announced with relief that injuries in Jefferson City had been minimal, that there were no fatalities and no reports of missing people.
Jefferson City Police Lt. David Williams said that a three-square-mile area received the brunt of the damage from the storm and that authorities were working through the night and into Thursday, moving door to door ensuring residents were safe.
“It’s a chaotic situation right now,” Williams said. “We are trying to identify the people that need our help the most.”
Residents appeared to have heeded the warning sirens, Jefferson City Mayor Carrie Tergin told CNN, which may have prevented mass casualties.
“People were saying that they took cover, and they followed the precautions,” Bowles said. “That’s what saved lives. There’s buildings up there that don’t have walls left. You can see into rooms. There’s beds on top of my office building from the neighborhood.”
Michael Moehn, the president of Ameren Missouri, the local utility, said at a midday news conference that about 2,000 people were without electricity in Jefferson City and another 2,300 were powerless in Eldon, about 30 miles southwest of the capital. Close to 200 electrical poles were broken, downed or damaged, and about 250 utility workers from around the state had been mobilized. The power grid had sustained “significant infrastructure damage,” Moehn said.
Authorities warned, however, that as power is restored, utilities in damaged homes and businesses could be a hazard and residents to resist the urge to begin cleanup before authorities are able to assess the structural integrity of their homes and businesses.
Some government buildings were damaged, but the state Capitol building and governor’s mansion appear to have escaped unscathed. Nonessential government workers were asked to stay home from work.
Kayleigh De Rosa, a resident at the Hawthorne Apartments complex in Jefferson City, shared a cellphone video with KRCG that showed how her home had been blown out by the tornado, leaving her family homeless.
The family’s balcony was now on her mother’s car, and her next-door neighbor’s home was equally dismantled by the sheer force of the natural disaster.
“As you can see over here, my bedroom window and everything is completely blown through, bricks everywhere,” she said. “It’s bad, guys.”
By Thursday afternoon, some Jefferson City residents were heading to shelters, looking for places to stay the night. Bowles went to Memorial Baptist Church, where the Missouri Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers set up its home base. The group sent out teams to help residents, and Bowles prepared sandwiches, snacks and drinks for workers and anyone who needed food.
“Our city needs us,” she said. “And that’s where we’re going to be.”
April 30, 2019 | 10:13 am
From the Desk of Jerry Silverman
President & CEO, The Jewish Federations of North America
Follow-up on Poway Chabad Shooting
This weekend brought another terrible tragedy – the shooting attack on the Poway Chabad congregation in the San Diego Jewish community.
Federations are taking varying approaches to bring their communities together. Some are weaving relevant messaging into their community Yom HaShoah commemorations; some Federations are organizing vigils in partnership with Chabad, while others are participating in multi-faith community events.
Michael Masters, Director of our Secure Community Network, arrived in the San Diego area by Saturday night and was joined yesterday by his SCN colleague Doron Horowitz, and Rebecca Dinar, JFNA’s Associate Vice President for Strategic Marketing.
In the San Diego community, the lead agency on community relations and security is the local office of the ADL and the lead agency regarding trauma support is JFS. In that context, the Federation, SCN and JFNA have worked to support local efforts to coordinate activities.
This morning, Michael Masters, and the local executive director, Michael Jeser, visited the Chabad of Poway, meeting with the leadership and the family of Rabbi Goldstein. Michael also met with several of the victims, as well as individuals who took action during the attack (which likely helped save lives). Over the next few weeks, SCN will work with the ADL to survey the community and make recommendations on how to address local needs.
The Jewish Federation and Jewish Community Foundation have opened a fund to meet the immediate physical, psychological and spiritual needs of the victims and others impacted. Here is the link to donate: www.jewishinsandiego.org/donate.Trauma. Telephone lines have been set up and a vigil was last night.
The increasing pace of attacks on Jewish institutions and others is creating a very challenging environment for us all. In the wake of the Pittsburgh attack, SCN created a multi-year plan to scale up their infrastructure and resources to support Federations and major national partners who coordinate networks of our key institutions (schools, JCCs, synagogues, camps etc.). JFNA and SCN leadership are working to develop a funding approach to drive this plan forward, respecting the reality that the first call on community funds is their own local security preparedness and emergency response capacity.
JFNA and SCN will provide further updates as available.
President & CEO
The Jewish Federations of North America
April 27, 2019 | 2:46 pm
From the Jewish Federation of St. Louis
View the Original Post
Statement on Chabad of Poway shooting; community gathering set for Sunday
Once again, the Jewish community has been the target of violence on the basis of our faith. The Jewish community of St. Louis sends our prayers to the victims, their families, Chabad of Poway, and all those touched by this act of terror.
That this attack should happen six months to the day after the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, on the Sabbath, and on the last day of Passover only adds to our heartache and to feelings of vulnerability and fear.
Moreover, we recognize that this attack comes in the same week as the horrific Easter Sunday attacks in Sri Lanka, and that so many of our interfaith partners are mourning alongside us.
Jewish Federation of St. Louis, the Jewish Community Relations Council of St Louis, and the St. Louis Rabbinical and Cantorial Association continue to work tirelessly to ensure the safety and security of our community, combat antisemitism, and strengthen our Jewish community.
A Community Gathering will be held Sunday, April 28, at 4 pm at Jewish Federation of St. Louis, 12 Millstone Campus Drive.
Our Jewish community will continue to stand against hate and fight for all people in our community — and all the people in our region and world — to worship without fear of persecution. In this Passover season, as we celebrate the beginning of our liberation from oppression, we recognize that our journey is still ongoing.
April 23, 2019 | 4:22 pm
From the Jewish Community Relations Council & Interfaith Partnership of Greater St. Louis
View the Original Message
An Interfaith Response to the Easter Sunday Violence in Sri Lanka
The Jewish Community Relations Council is currently lending support to Interfaith Partnership as a community-wide interfaith vigil is being planned for Wednesday, April 24, at 4 pm. The vigil will take place at St. Monica’s located at 12140 Olive Boulevard, 63141.
Join the St. Louis Interfaith community as we come together for prayers and reflections of grief and solidarity in yet another time of horror and tragedy.
To donate to the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society to aid victims of the attack, please click here.
Coordinated by Interfaith Partnership of Greater St. Louis and its regional partners. Since 1985, a collaborative organization for representing over 30 communities of faith and conscience.
March 20, 2019 | 2:40 pm
From the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee
Support the relief effort in Mozambique
On March 14, 2019, Tropical Cyclone Idai made landfall in Mozambique. In the course of hours, Beira — the nation’s fourth-largest city of half a million people — was nearly leveled.
Photo courtesy of economist.com.
Over the next several days, the storm transformed Central Mozambique into what a UN official has called “an inland ocean.” With a rising death toll and over 1.5 million people affected, the tragic situation remains critical; many survivors are still nearly impossible to reach due to collapsed roads and flooding.
In response to this ongoing crisis, JDC is coordinating with our partner the Afya Foundation to provide emergency medical supplies to affected regions and has deployed a team that includes a disaster relief expert and a field medic. As we deliver critical assistance, we will continue to assess the situation on the ground to meet local communities’ emerging needs.
Your donation brings immediate aid to the survivors of Cyclone Idai at a crucial time, as well as supporting the longer-term process of recovery and rebuilding.
March 20, 2019 | 2:31 pm
From Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh
New Zealand Islamophobic Attack Emergency Relief Fund
Help the Muslim Community After This Horrific Attack
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has described the incident as an anti-Muslim terrorist attack and one of New Zealand’s “darkest days.”
Please give to our New Zealand Attack Emergency Relief fund to support the Muslim community of New Zealand as they deal with this horrific hate crime.
Please know that 100% of your contribution net of credit card fees will go to help people in need. We are still in the process of identifying the best international partner with whom to work so that your money goes directly to help. Thank you for trusting the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh with your support as we work together to help those connect with the services they need.
If you prefer to donate by phone, please call our Donor Center at 412-992-5255 Monday through Friday, 9 to 5 pm.
Thank you for your generosity. We are stronger together.
March 15, 2019 | 1:42 pm
Statement from the Jewish Community Relations Council, Jewish Federation of St. Louis, St. Louis Rabbinical & Cantorial Association, and the St. Louis Rabbinical Council
The leadership of the Jewish Community Relations Council, Jewish Federation of St. Louis, St. Louis Rabbinical & Cantorial Association, and the St. Louis Rabbinical Council have joined together to express our sorrow and horror over the terror attack today in Christchurch, New Zealand. We stand with our brothers and sisters in the local Muslim community as they have stood with us in other times of grief.
Please see this letter to find out more about how the Jewish Federations of North America is responding to the attack.
March 15, 2019 | 10:42 am
From Jewish Federations of North America
Shooting at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand
The following statement was put out by JFNA regarding the shooting at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.
We are devastated by the senseless hate-filled terror attack targeting two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch. Our Jewish community mourns the tragic loss of 49 innocent lives. We know all too well the price of terrorism, racism and hatred.
No person should ever have to fear attending a sacred place of worship. The xenophobia that led to this unspeakable bloodshed must be condemned in no uncertain terms by leaders worldwide and the public-at-large. Hatred and vitriol must have no place to manifest. We cannot allow it to continue to violate the moral and ethical core of our society.
November 13, 2018 | 3:52 pm
From The Times of Israel, written by Judah Ari Gross
Israel indicates acceptance of Gaza ceasefire reached with Hamas
Palestinian terror groups in the Strip say they will abide by Egyptian-brokered ceasefire if IDF does too
A ball of fire above the building housing the Hamas-run television station al-Aqsa TV in the Gaza Strip during an Israeli air strike, November 12, 2018. (MAHMUD HAMS/AFP)
Palestinian terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip announced that Egypt brokered a ceasefire agreement between them and Israel on Tuesday evening, after over 460 rockets and mortar shells were fired at southern Israel over the course of 25 hours.
A senior Israeli diplomatic official appeared to confirm the reported armistice. First reports said the decision to accept a ceasefire agreement with Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and other terror groups in Gaza was taken by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Tuesday’s seven-hour meeting of the security cabinet without being put to a vote. Four ministers quickly said they opposed it.
“Israel maintains its right to act. Requests from Hamas for a ceasefire came through four different mediators. Israel responded that the events on the ground will decide [if a ceasefire will go into effect],” the Israeli official said, on condition of anonymity.
According to the military, over 460 rockets and mortar shells were fired at southern Israel over the course of 25 hours on Monday and Tuesday.
The Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted over 100 of them. Most of the rest landed in open fields, but dozens landed inside Israeli cities and towns, killing one person, injuring dozens more, and causing significant property damage.
In response to the rocket and mortar attacks, the Israeli military says it targeted approximately 160 sites in the Gaza Strip connected to the Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror groups, including four facilities that the army designated as “key strategic assets.”
Cabinet members who had previously supported more aggressive military action in the Strip quickly denied that they had supported the measure.
“The briefings about the purported support from Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman for ending the strikes in Gaza are fake news. The defense minister’s position has been consistent and has not changed,” Liberman’s office said in a statement.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett also denied he’d supported the ceasefire, saying the claim was a “total lie.”
Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked were also said to have opposed a ceasefire agreement.
The decision was reached following a seven-hour marathon meeting of the security cabinet.
At the conclusion of the meeting, it released a statement that read, “The security cabinet discussed the events in the south. The cabinet received briefings from the IDF and defense officials on the [IDF] strikes and widespread operations against terror targets in Gaza. The cabinet instructed the IDF to continue its strikes as needed.”
Shortly after the cabinet announcement Tuesday, Hamas’s political chief in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, was reported as saying that if Israel stopped its strikes against Hamas infrastructure in Gaza, the terror group would return to ceasefire talks.
On Tuesday, Egyptian intelligence officials, United Nations Special Envoy to the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov, and other third-party mediators scrambled to broker a ceasefire between the two sides.
According to the IDF, the barrage of more than 460 rockets and mortars lobbed at southern Israel began shortly after 4:30 p.m. Monday when Palestinian terrorists fired a Kornet anti-tank guided missile at a bus near the border, severely injuring an Israeli soldier on board.
The anti-tank missile attack occurred less than a day after an IDF special operations officer was killed in an operation in Gaza gone awry that also killed seven Palestinian gunmen. Following the clashes, Hamas said “the blood of our righteous martyrs will not be wasted.”
Dozens of incoming rockets and mortars exploded inside cities and towns throughout southern Israel, several of them directly hitting homes and apartment buildings in Ashkelon, Netivot, and Sderot.
One man was killed in one of those direct hits in Ashkelon. He was later identified as a 48-year-old Palestinian man from Hebron, Mahmoud Abu Asbah, who was living in Israel with a legal work permit.
According to medical officials, 27 other people were injured in attacks, including the soldier hit in the anti-tank missile attack and two women wounded in direct hits on apartment buildings in Ashkelon. A man in his 40s was also moderately wounded by shrapnel, medics said.
In Gaza, seven Palestinians — at least five of them later claimed by terrorist groups as members — were reportedly killed in the IDF’s raids on Monday and Tuesday, apparently in airstrikes on rocket-launching cells.
In recent weeks, Egyptian and UN mediators had appeared to be making progress in brokering informal understandings aimed at quieting the situation.
Last week, Israel allowed Qatar to deliver $15 million to Gaza to allow cash-strapped Hamas to pay the salaries of thousands of government workers. At the same time, Hamas has lowered the intensity of the border protests in recent weeks.
The fighting on Monday and Tuesday cast doubt over understandings previously brokered by Egypt and UN officials to reduce tensions. Just a day earlier, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had defended those understandings, saying he was doing everything possible to avoid another “unnecessary war.”
November 13, 2018 | 12:14 pm
Update from The Jewish Federations of North America
Israel-Gaza Conflict: Live Briefing Tomorrow
More than 400 rockets were fired at Israeli towns and communities across the south, reaching as far as Ashkelon. Residents of the Gaza area were ordered to stay close to shelters, and public gatherings have been banned in the region. Schools and other educational institutions are closed today.
Join top Israeli Defense Forces spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus for a live audio briefing,* facilitated by Adobe Connect, on Wednesday, November 14, at 11:00 AM ET.
*This briefing is off the record.
November 13, 2018 | 12:10 pm
Update from The Jewish Federations of North America
Update on Israel-Gaza Conflict from The Jewish Agency for Israel
The Jewish Agency for Israel, a Federation partner, has been on the ground since the violence intensified, providing assistance to affected communities.
Read an update from Isaac Herzog, Chair of the Executive, The Jewish Agency.
Note: This audio briefing will be facilitated by Adobe Connect. Detailed directions and technical support information will be provided once you register.
November 13, 2018 | 9:02 am
From the President & CEO of The Jewish Federations of North America
Update from The Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA)
Unfortunately, the situation in Israel’s south escalated overnight and Hamas rockets continued to be fired at Israeli civilian targets. JFNA’s Israel office has prepared the following update:
Since just before 5 pm yesterday (Israel time), over 400 rockets have been fired at Israel, triggering an endless stream of sirens, and causing hundreds of thousands of civilians to spend the night in shelters (see photos of damage here). In the worst incident, a residential building in Ashkelon was hit by a rocket, killing a 48-year old man and severely injuring two women. In total, at least 55 Israelis have been wounded by the effects of the rockets since the attacks began yesterday.
While Israel’s Iron Dome Missile Defense System successfully intercepted more than 100 rockets that were headed to populated areas, eight residential buildings were hit in Sderot, six in Ashkelon, and two in Netivot (see one of the Netivot residences here). Footage of incoming rockets and Iron Dome interceptions can be seen here.
Residents of the region have been instructed to remain close to shelters, public gatherings have been banned, and kindergartens, elementary schools, and high schools have all been closed with classes cancelled for some 200,000 students, in cities and towns including Sderot, Be’er Sheva, Ashdod, and Ashkelon.
The attacks began yesterday (see update here) when an Israeli bus was targeted by an anti-tank missile fired from Gaza. One 19-year-old Israeli soldier was severely injured in the attack, and he remains in critical condition. According to authorities, tens of soldiers had disembarked from the civilian bus minutes before it was hit. A Hamas propaganda video depicting, and celebrating, the attack can be seen here.
In response to the rockets, the IDF has struck close to 100 Hamas and Islamic Jihad military targets in Gaza, including four that were classified as “significant strategic military assets.” Targets included Hamas weapons’ warehouses, a naval vessel used by the terror group, a building used by its internal security service, and a Hamas-run television station.
Israel has moved additional tanks and infantry units to the Gaza border region, and is considering a significant call-up of reserves. Israel’s security cabinet is currently meeting in emergency session.
Israeli television stations are broadcasting round-the-clock coverage of the situation, and both television and radio are interrupting their broadcasts on a regular basis, announcing (or displaying) Red Alert sirens and their location. Several communities in the center of the country have announced that residents are opening their homes to those from the south who feel the need to escape from the current tension, danger and uncertainty of their home towns.
Today is also the scheduled date for run-off municipal elections in Israel (in all locations where no candidate received 40% of the vote or more in the first round). Due to the security situation, the Ministry of Interior has postponed the elections in the Hof Ashkelon Municipality, but all other votes will take place, including in the country’s capital, Jerusalem.
The Jewish Agency for Israel’s Fund for the Victims of Terror has already reached out to many of the families whose houses were struck by rockets overnight and is providing immediate emergency assistance. A number of the dwellings that were hit are no longer inhabitable, and residents have been taken to hotels.
Alongside the Jewish Agency, Jewish Federations’ other partners (including JDC, ITC, and World ORT) are all active on the ground dealing with the emergency situation and responding to urgent needs. JFNA’s Israel office is in close contact with our partners and Federation staff with partnership regions that are impacted by the situation, as well as with government and emergency services operating in the area; and will continue to monitor the situation closely, and update as needed.
President & CEO
The Jewish Federations of North America
25 Broadway, Suite 1700
New York, NY 10004-1010
Sources: IDF Spokesperson, Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Walla! News, The Times of Israel, Ma’ariv, The Jerusalem Post, Galei Tzahal (Army Radio) and Kan-Reshet Bet.
LA Wildfire Relief Fund Opened
- The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles has opened an LA Wildfire Relief Fund – 100% of all funds raised will go to individuals and institutions affected by the fires.
- The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles launched an Emergency Hotline for those affected and in need of assistance: (323) 761-8100.
November 12, 2019 | 9:48 am
From the CEO of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles
We Are Here For You
It’s been a tough few days. Unfortunately, I am writing to you amidst another crisis affecting our community. As you know, wildfires are raging across Los Angeles in the West San Fernando and Conejo Valleys. At this moment, numerous neighborhoods are under mandatory evacuation.
I want to assure you that we are doing all we can to help our community as this natural disaster affects our Jewish institutions and homes. We are in touch with partners throughout the area, and our Federation’s Community Security Initiative (CSI) sent out multiple updates throughout the night. Our Senior Staff mobilized this morning to discuss further strategies to assist our partners and the members of our community living in the affected areas.
If you or your loved ones are impacted by these fires and need information, services, or assistance of any kind, please call our Federation’s Emergency Hotline at (323) 761-8100 from 8:00 AM-8:00 PM. Because of the ever-changing nature of the situation, this line will be answered on Shabbat and throughout the weekend.
The past few weeks have tested our strength and resolve as a community and a nation. As we welcome Shabbat, please know that our Federation is here to support you and your families.
President & CEO
October 30, 2018
Victims of Terror Fund
If you would like to make a donation to Pittsburgh, you can do so through the Victims of Terror Fund at JewishPGH.org/Our-Victims-Of-Terror-Fund.
October 28, 2018
Remarks at the Community Vigil against hate
Yesterday morning at around 11 am local time, 11 people lost their lives in what is believed to be the single worst assault on Jews in United States history. The oldest was Rose Mallinger, 97. The youngest was David Rosenthal, 54. Like some of the other victims both of them were from Squirrel Hill, the location of the Tree of Life Synagogue where the carnage took place.
Earlier this morning I heard from my colleague Jeff Finkelstein, who is the CEO of the Pittsburgh Federation. He told us that a local marine, a former combat veteran, reported that it was the single worst scene of human carnage he had ever seen. Jeff has not been able to enter the synagogue. He will be attending 11 funerals over the next week. 11 funerals, 11 families, 11 children without fathers or mothers.
The 11 victims were joined by six others who were injured, including three police officers who put their lives at risk by rushing in to confront the assailant, preventing what surely would have been an even worse outcome.
Yesterday’s casualties were targeted for one reason. They were Jewish. They were Jews who chose to worship according to our tradition.
But why yesterday, why this particular Shabbat morning?
Although we need not look for any other reason, the assailant explained his motivations in a post: Yesterday morning, the synagogue hosted HIAS, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, and sponsored a program on helping immigrants. He said his attack was motivated because those Jews were helping immigrants and letting very bad people into our country.
As we remember this horrible anti-Semitic attack let us also remember that an assault on the immigrant, an assault on any minority, and any attempt to dehumanize others simply because they are different, is an assault to each one of us here.
Today, we stand in solidarity, as a community, with the victims of these attacks, with the broader Jewish community in Pittsburgh, with the Jewish People around the world, with all peoples who are outraged by these senseless acts. We gather here in our region to say, this will not stand, this is not us, we can and must do better.
I am Andrew Rehfeld, President and CEO of the Jewish Federation of St. Louis. I thank you for standing with us for a vigil to turn hate into hope, to express our outrage at what occurred and move to a place of healing drawing on the traditions of multiple faiths. For while our community was the target of the assault we must never forget that an act of anti-Semitism is an act not just against the Jew. It is an assault on the very right of each of us to be treated as fully human no matter what our race or religion.
I have been overwhelmed by the show of support from our region. And want to acknowledge so many of you that have contacted me to share your pain and offer your support.
I want to begin by thanking the key individuals who made this gathering possible. To Lynn Wittels and the staff of The J, who within hours turned this gymnasium into a holy space. To Maharat Rori Picker Neiss, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council and Rabbi Noah Arnow, president of the St. Louis Rabbinical Association, who put together a meaningful program. To them and to so many of you who posted and tweeted and mobilized our community, this is the power that will fight hate. Knowing that we stand together, knowing that the Jewish community is not alone.
The history of anti-Semitism is marked by two very important kinds. The most devastating form is Statist anti-Semitism, when the state actively engages in the destruction of our people like it did during the Holocaust. Alongside is populist anti-Semitism, where hate-filled individuals target our people for imagined offenses that fill them with rage. Yesterday’s attack was one in a long line of populist anti-Semitism instances, tracing back at least to the creation of the blood libel in the 12thcentury and possibly before.
Populist anti-Semitism can only be conquered through education and strong support from the state. We saw that support yesterday in the scores of first responders who rushed to protect as many as they could. Here in St. Louis, I would also like to recognize our First Responder Community. The agencies that are home to Jewish Synagogues and Shuls immediately took action upon receiving word of this tragedy, placing vehicles and officers at those locations. Specific departments, such as St. Louis City and County, Creve Coeur, Chesterfield, Olivette, University City, and Clayton, responded to our Synagogues to provide visible support and reassurance. And along with those first responders, I want to thank two individuals here today: Jeff Jenson, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri, and Richard Quinn, the special agent in charge of the FBI for St. Louis. I thank them all.
Standing behind me is also a group of elected officials who have reached out to offer their words of solidarity. I want to recognize first Governor Parson who was invited to speak today but unable to attend as well as Senator McCaskill and Representative Lacy Clay who had hoped to be here if not for their own out of town conflicts. I want to now invite U.S. Senator Roy Blunt to offer words of support on behalf of the US Congressional Delegation that also here includes Congresswoman Ann Wagner. Following the Senator’s remarks I will ask State Senator Jill Schupp to speak representing our state legislative delegation in Jeff City that here also includes Representative Stacy Neuman.
[Roy Blunt Speaks]
[Jill Schupp Speaks]
Would you please join me again in thanking Senator Blunt, Congresswoman Wagner, State Senator Schupp and State Representative Neuman, along with Senator-elect Brian Williams, Sarah Unsicker, a representative, and Rep. Derek Grier in standing together in condemnation of these awful attacks.
Twenty months ago, I stood before our region at the desecration of Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery, and I said that in times of attack we must “name it, condemn it and do something about it.” We have now named this attack and condemned it. What can we do about it?
First, the Jewish Federation of St. Louis takes our commitment to our community’s security very seriously. Working in partnership with our local law enforcement, we have invested significantly in providing security advisory services and coordination for events and programs as needed. This work is our mission. It is what we are here to do, and I thank each of you who have made this work possible through your investment in our organizations.
Second, for those of you who are seeking counseling in times of crisis please take advantage of the significant support of Jewish Family and Children Services.
Third, educate yourself about the evils that happen when good people stand idly by. Visit our community Holocaust museum and make a commitment to the words “never again.”
Fourth, do your part to combat the scourge of incivility that has turned disagreements between us about ideas into personal attacks. Let us not leave here today without some reflection on how we are each fostering a culture and climate of civil discourse. Do your part to monitor your social media to delete posts that attack people rather than express disagreements.
And finally, each of us as citizens of the United States has a moral responsibility to call our political leadership to account during our election season. Work to support those who refuse to personalize political disagreement, target minorities, or create fear of immigrants. And call on all political leaders to condemn these actions as well. For it is this culture of hate that allows anti-Semitism to thrive.
Name it. Condemn it. And do something about it. I thank you and those on stage for standing in solidarity with us. Let us now commemorate and honor the memory of those who were killed.
October 27, 2018
Statement on Tree of Life Tragedy
Today’s horrific act of violence at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh is shocking and disturbing. The Jewish community of St. Louis sends our prayers to the victims, their families, and the Tree of Life congregation.
We have security measures in place and immediately sent an alert to local synagogues and other Jewish agencies when news broke about this incident. We have been in contact with local law enforcement agencies and have taken appropriate measures to ensure the safety of our local community.
Jewish Federation of St. Louis plays a lead role in coordinating security for the Jewish community here and will continue to coordinate with local law enforcement to provide protection in the future.
Jewish Federations of North America has opened a mailbox to aid victims of Hurricane Michael. Click here to go to the donation page.
September 30, 2018 – New York, NY – Following the deadly earthquake and tsunami that struck Indonesia’s Sulawesi island on Friday, September 28, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) is providing emergency medical services, critical supplies, and psychosocial support with one of its longstanding local partners. Additionally, JDC’s Indonesia representative, in cooperation with its global disaster response team, is engaging in ongoing needs assessments and working together with local organizations to help ensure best practices among responders to protect groups especially vulnerable in disasters including women, children, and the elderly. With a presence in Indonesia since the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, JDC is raising funds for immediate and long-term support in the face of a spiking death toll and widespread devastation impacting millions. To support JDC’s Indonesia relief efforts, visit: www.jdc.org/indonesiarelief.
“Our hearts go out once again to the people of Indonesia, who have suffered two tragic disasters in recent months and find themselves in need of immediate care and tools to better prepare themselves for future crises,” said JDC CEO David M. Schizer. “As Jews around the world gather in the coming days to celebrate the conclusion of our High Holiday season, we are keenly aware of our blessings, our responsibility to repair a broken world, and the need to act now to deliver hope to those facing so much despair.”
Last month, JDC responded to the tragic earthquake in Lombok by providing survivors critically-needed shelter, food, medicine, electricity, and psychosocial support. This response built off of JDC’s work in Indonesia providing direct aid through local partners and, in a major focus, strengthening disaster risk reduction and response capabilities over the last 14 years. Those JDC efforts culminated in a just-completed flagship program, funded by USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, that trained local communities in disaster management and psychosocial services.
JDC’s disaster relief programs are funded by special appeals of the Jewish Federations of North America and tens of thousands of individual donors to JDC. In the last year, has responded to disasters and crises in Guatemala, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Mexico, the Caribbean, Sri Lanka, and East Africa and has continued its post-disaster development work in Nepal and Haiti. JDC also provides ongoing humanitarian aid to refugees in Europe and the Middle East.
JDC relief activities are coordinated with the U.S. Department of State, USAID, the Israeli government and the United Nations, as well as local and international partners.
CNN.com reports that the hurricane made landfall on the night of September 13 as a Category 1 and is one of the largest to hit the region in decades. With record-breaking rain expected, extensive damage continues to mount. The effects associated with the storm are significant and could prove to be unlike anything experienced in that region.
The need for funds to support the victims of this tragic storm will be enormous and long-term. It will be days before anyone can even begin to assess the damages because rain and flooding have not stopped.
Jewish Federations of North America has opened a donation site to collect funds for victims of Hurricane Florence. One hundred percent of all contributions to this fund will be directed through the Jewish Federations of North America to support the Hurricane Florence Relief Fund as part of the Jewish communities’ collective response to this emergency. Thank you to those who have already donated to this important effort.
Please visit JewishFederations.org/Hurricane-Relief-Fund-2018 to donate.