Here for Good: In Times of Need
By Vivian Henoch, Editor myJewishDetroit
January 1, 2015
Editor’s note: It’s been months since the flash flood on August 11th left thousands of basements in the area awash with rainwater and sewage, but the impact of the event is still being felt by those who were affected.
Fortunately, many families in the Jewish community found support from Federation, JFS and a host of partners and volunteers in the immediate aftermath of the flood. A recent story in The Jewish News checked in with some of those families whose homes were flooded and who spoke about the help they received from JFS. You can read the article here.
Additionally, the article below is posted on the national news feed of Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) and touches in further detail on our Jewish Detroit story as well as the many ways Federation provides for Jewish families in need, wherever there is need. Because we are and always will be HERE FOR GOOD. –Vivian Henoch, Editor/Writer, myJewishDetroit
“We are a convener for help in the community. We bring people together who otherwise wouldn’t find each other.”
– Amy Newman, Federation’s Alliance for Jewish Education
Whenever there’s a call for volunteers in her community, Julie Constantine-Kohlhaas is there. But after a natural disaster cost her family their home, belongings and even lifelong friends, Julie suddenly found herself on the other side of the equation.
“We’ve always been the family that just gives everything we can to help everyone we know,” she says. “To be in a situation where you have to accept help…. It’s so humbling for us.”
Julie’s story unfolded in the aftermath of floods in Colorado. But there have been dozens of communities around North America affected by natural disasters in recent years, from Hurricane Sandy in the Northeast to tornadoes in the Midwest to ravaging wildfires in the West.
And in each of those emergencies, Federation has been there, helping coordinate rescue, recovery and rebuilding.
Locally, Federations’ social service agencies check in on the most vulnerable—the elderly, the disabled, low-income families—and assess needs, from emotional trauma to property damage. Federations recruit and manage volunteers from across communities and hold drives for critical supplies, like warm clothing and food. JCCs transform into command centers, activity hubs and often shelters for volunteers. And on regional and national scales, other Federations contribute volunteers, supplies and money to fund recovery efforts.
Take Detroit for an example
When a storm dumped historic amounts of rain on the city last August, flooding roads and houses and knocking out power for 100,000 residents, Federation was ready to act.
Using its profound knowledge of the community, Federation directed partner NECHAMA: Jewish Response to Disaster to where help was needed the most, and publicized and coordinated volunteer recruitment and logistics—even housing and feeding volunteers who came from around the U.S. and Israel.
Liraz Gibli, a 23-year-old Israeli, was in the U.S. on an exchange trip when she joined the effort. She spent days cleaning out the destroyed basements of elderly Jews’ homes. “Federation asked for volunteers,” she recalled. “I have the time, I have the strength, so why not? I love the people and the work is very satisfying.”
“We helped a woman who had tears in her eyes, saying, ‘Thank you so much to Federation, thank you for coming,’” said Amy Newman, a Federation professional. “It made me realize how much we are a convener for help in the community. We bring people together who otherwise wouldn’t find each other.”
Internationally, Federation partner agency the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) provides critical humanitarian relief after natural disasters. From the 2010 earthquake in Haiti to the 2014 typhoon in the Philippines, JDC funds and personnel support everything from food, water and medicine delivery to medical relief work and rehabilitation facilities.
In times of calm and in times of great need, Federation is there. It’s what being part of a collective—one that stretches from coast to coast, and even around the world—is all about. So when the unexpected happens, people like Julie and their entire community know that help is on the way.
Relief and Recovery: JFS Update
With the assistance of the Federation of Metropolitan Detroit and many other partners in the community, Jewish Family Services JFS:
- Provided Emergency Financial Assistance totaling just under $800,000 to 180 households for clean-up, replacement of essential appliances and restoration of living space.
- Distributed 522 pieces of furniture (generously donated by Art Van) to 142 households.
- Helped affected community members with filing insurance claims, applying for FEMA assistance, researching contractors, and many other diverse services.
All told, the agency assisted 288 unique households that were not previously clients of JFS, along with 67 households that were receiving services from JFS. That’s 355 total households, and likely a few thousand individuals.