The images of devastation coming out of Texas, Florida, Mexico, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and other Caribbean Islands have been heartbreaking weeks, as severe hurricanes and earthquakes have occured in quick succession. Seeing the suffering of others moves something inside of us to reach out and help.
These natural instincts are enhanced by teachings in our Jewish tradition such as "You shall not harden your heart, nor shut your hand from your needy brother, but lend him sufficient for his need" (Deut. 15:7), "Do not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor" (Lev. 19:16), "Justice, justice shall you pursue" (Deut. 16:20), and "Anyone who saves a life is as if he saved an entire world" (Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5).
With these teachings in mind we are providing links to a variety of organizations that are accepting donations to help the many victims of these disasters:
- Jewish Federation of Greater Washington: Hurrican Relief Fund, in coordination with The Jewish Federations of North America (100% of the funds will go immediately to help those in need, including in Puerto Rico).
- Nechama -- Jewish Response to Disaster: Hurricanes Harvey and Irma Response
- Direct Relief -- Provides disaster relief in the US and around the world; donate to the organization or to help in a specific area.
- IsraAid and ZAKA, Two Israeli aid organizations that include international rescue/aid efforts and have been active in Texas, Florida, Mexico and Puerto Rico among others. Both allow donors to designate where the funds are used.
- American Jewish World Service (AJWS): Mexico Earthquake Fund
Of course, in addition to donations of money, a traditional response to disaster has always been prayer. Below is a prayer that is an adaptation of two separate prayers written by Rabbi Fred Gutman and Rabbi Samuel Barth:
Avinu Shebashamayim, God of the heavens: nature and all that You have created are truly awesome. Often, we take these wonders for granted. Teach us to cherish all of your gifts.
Try as we might, we know that we cannot control the oceans, the mountains, the weather. We also firmly believe that ever since the time of Noah, You do not send floods, make the earth shake, or dispatch weather formations, such as hurricanes, as warnings or punishments.
So we ask, as the effects and aftermath of recent natural disasters are felt, that You shelter all who have been left in their path. Watch over everyone, their loved ones, friends, fellow human beings, and pets, including the many who have been forced to evacuate. Guard them as they leave their homes and guard those who are sheltering in place. Grant them strength, courage, and resolve. Answer their prayers and ours that they be blessed with goodness and be spared from harm.
We ask too that You grant wisdom and strength to those responsible for rescue, for administration and coordination-the first and last responders and those helping with recovery. May they find the strength and courage, the insight and judgment, the love of humanity to do their best to bring wisdom and technology to alleviate suffering, heal injury, and restore the services and infrastructure to the people of the devastated communities.
May we all give support, encouragement, love, and gifts to the best of our abilities.
Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech Ha'Olam sh' kocho u-gevurato mah-leh olam.
Blessed are You, Source of Life and Nature, whose awesome power and strength fill our world and inspire us to be strong in the face of all of life's difficulties.
Rabbi Michelle "Mina" Goldsmith