Fresh from the inbox:
The first blast of the shofar came early this year.
One week before the beginning of Elul, the Hebrew calendar’s month of prayer, introspection, and repentance, Hurricane Katrina blew into the Delta.
Watching the human suffering, we felt shock, horror, sadness. Watching the failed response from Washington, we felt the same.
Maimonides explains the custom of blowing the shofar during Elul as a tool to rouse us from our complacency.
After Katrina, we are not complacent.
But how should we respond? As a nation; as Americans; as Jews?
Donations to house, feed, and clothes those impacted are vital. And victims of Katrina, particular those without means, deserve more than the basic necessities.
They deserve Chesed (Loving Kindness). And they deserve Tzedec (Justice).
Over the coming months and years, we are committed to leading a Jewish response to the injustices suffered by those without income and influence. To that end, Jewish Fund for Justice (JFJ) and The Shefa Fund, two national Jewish 501(c)3 non-profit organizations dedicated to anti-poverty and low income community development, have established a joint JFJ/Shefa Hurricane Katrina Relief and Redevelopment Project.
As a first step, we have created a Fund and will soon expand to include other efforts to engage Jews in support for low-income residents suffering from Katrina. The Fund, administered by The Shefa Fund, will provide immediate assistance to Katrina victims. It will also invest in the long-term redevelopment needs of affected low income residents.
In addition to the Fund, JFJ and Shefa are committed to leading a long-term response to address the injustices at the center of the Katrina tragedy. We will collaborate with all others seeking to bring justice to the Delta.
Our approach acknowledges this reality: All communities in Katrina’s path suffered. But they did not suffer equally. Low income communities in the Delta were neglected before, during, and immediately following the hurricane. Those who had little before Katrina now have nothing. We have created this project to acknowledge that reality and to help focus some Jewish giving on the long-term redevelopment needs of the disaster’s most neglected victims.
This fund represents a continuation of work The Shefa Fund has been doing for years. While the devastation is unparalleled in scope, The Shefa Fund has considerable experience targeting Jewish giving to help low income communities.
The first local group to receive support from the fund is the Jackson, MS-based Enterprise Corporation of the Delta (ECD), a local community development financial institution (CDFI), and its New Orleans-based Hope Community Credit Union (HOPE). ECD/HOPE has twelve years of experience in strengthening distressed areas to help residents rebuild their lives, homes, businesses and communities.
To distribute these and other funds, EDC/HOPE has set up the ECD Hurricane Katrina Relief Fund. They describe their giving strategy as focused first on “community partners who are providing food, clothing and shelter” for those displaced, before shifting to support “payment deferrals, provide down payment assistance, establish loss reserves, and otherwise extend a bridge to those recovering from this tragedy.”
We will continue to work with and support community-based partners in the region uniquely positioned to address unmet of low income residents; groups that have earned the trust of their communities.
When you contribute to the relief effort, consider sending the message that chesed, without tzedec, is not enough.
Jewish Fund for Justice
The Shefa Fund
Contributions to the fund can be made by visiting www.shefafund.org. Additional information about the JFJ/Shefa Hurricane Katrina Relief and Redevelopment Project, including ways for you to get involved, will be available on The Shefa Fund website and at www.jfjustice.org, or by contacting Mik Moore at mik [at] jfjustice [dot] org.