Last fall, multiple natural disasters left entire communities across the Americas in disarray and disrepair. Although the immediate emergencies have passed, the needs in Puerto Rico, Houston, Mexico and Florida remain urgent -- and Chicago's Jewish community and the Jewish Federation continue to respond to those needs.
Chicagoans have come together to raise and distribute more than $1 million toward relief and rebuilding efforts in these areas over the last six months through the Jewish Federation Disaster Relief Fund.
Initial funds were funneled to Houston to provide Hurricane Harvey victims with food and emergency cash assistance; trauma support and housing for those displaced; and infrastructure repair for Jewish institutions. JUF's TOV Volunteer Network also coordinated volunteer missions to the area to help rebuild homes.
The fund then immediately expanded to respond to the damage from Hurricanes Irma and Maria; allocations were made to Florida, Puerto Rico and the wider Caribbean to assist with initial cleanup efforts; deliver food, water and toiletries for disaster victims; and provide psychological support for children.
Most recently, $100,000 went to the Jewish Federation's partners on the ground in Puerto Rico, and several hundred thousand dollars more are expected to be distributed in the coming weeks to Puerto Rico and Houston.
This distribution included funds to support humanitarian NGO IsraAID's clean water project, which is working to provide long-term safe water solutions for tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans whose water infrastructure was severely damaged by Hurricane Maria. The distribution also includes financial assistance to Puerto Rico's Jewish institutions in support of their relief efforts in the general community.
Contributions to the Jewish Federation Disaster Relief Fund can still be made at www.juf.org/DisasterRelief and may be designated to help with relief efforts in a particular location.
As always, the Federation continues to absorb all administrative costs, so that 100 percent of funds collected will provide relief for the thousands impacted by these disasters.
All funds raised support the efforts of Federation partners who have boots on the ground in these locations -- the Jewish Federations of North America, NECHAMA: Jewish Response to Disaster, IsraAID, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and the local Jewish Federations -- as well as food drives and volunteer missions. As members of the Jewish Coalition for Disaster Relief, the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago is continuously updated and informed about areas of greatest need.