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Help from Jewish Akron

by: Paula Maggio - Last updated: 2005-09-01

Hurricane Katrina

Hurricane Katrina

The Jewish community of Akron, Ohio is reaching out to Jewish residents of the Gulf Coast who have been displaced by Hurricane Katrina by offering them free housing, schooling, synagogue membership and other services until they can return to their homes.

The Jewish Community Board of Akron, which oversees the city’s Jewish centre, day school and social service agency, is coordinating the effort, with the support of local Jewish agencies, community members and congregations.

"For me, having been through Hurricane Hugo while I was living in Charleston, words cannot express the importance of the assistance we received through the national United Jewish Communities system from Jews around the country," said Michael D. Wise, board CEO.

The board is part of the national Jewish federation system known as United Jewish Communities, which has established a humanitarian relief fund to aid hurricane victims.

By 5 pm Wednesday, the day after Hurricane Katrina devastated communities in four states, Akron’s Jewish community had its own relief fund in place. It had also put together a plan offering tangible help to displaced families.

It offers families who will be displaced by the powerful storm for a substantial period of time free housing in units donated by Jewish community landlords.

It also offers them free schooling for their children at both the community’s Jewish day school, Lippman Jewish Community Day School, and at the Shaw Jewish Community Center Preschool.

Families will be able to access the fitness, recreational and social programs and facilities of the newly renovated Shaw JCC at no cost to them.

And they can receive short-term psychological support through Jewish Family Service, the social service agency that provides individual and family counseling and senior programs on a local level.

“We will also pair each family up with a local host family who will help them adjust while they are here. And we will help them find temporary – or, if needed, permanent – employment in the area,” Wise said.

The Akron Jewish community will also help Gulf Coast transplants access federal, state and local resources that can help them, he added.

Wise has experience in that area. As head of the Jewish federation in Charleston, when Hurricane Hugo hit there in September of 1989, he helped community members rebuild from the storm.

“Our community agencies are eager to assist people impacted by this storm in any way possible. In a very real way, we will be helping residents of the Gulf Coast area as they go about repairing their world,” Wise said.

Reproduced with permission: Akron Jewish News