Masorti Olami's Chile Earthquake Relief Fund
Repaired at last - work is now complete on the Masorti synagogue in Concepcion following the Earthquake in February.
Click here for an update and to see pictures of the repairs.
Updated March 25, 2010
Below are pictures we have received of the damaged caused to Communidad Israelita De Concepcion. As you can see the greatest damage was to the roof and the to the ceiling inside the building.
Thanks again to all who have supported our Chile Earthquake Relief Fund, which will help this Masorti kehillah rebuild the synagogue.
Masorti Olami’s Chile Earthquake Relief Fund – Two Weeks on
March 18th, 2010
When we heard and read the news about the devastating earthquake in Chile on the eve of Purim, we were shocked and wanted to help. Just 2 days later, on Monday, March 1st we opened the Chile Earthquake Relief Fund in an attempt to raise funds which would go to rebuilding synagogues, homes and the lives of our friends in Chile. At that time we never realized just how great the response to our campaign would be.
Within the first few hours, donations began to come in online, along with phone calls of support and pledges that checks would be sent. Former Masorti Olami President, Rabbi Alan Silverstein of Congregation Agudath Israel in Caldwell, NJ told us that he too had thought of offering support for the Chilean Jewish community, and that his congregation’s Purim charity collection would be coming to us. That same day, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, and the Masorti Movement in Israel also contacted us, wanting to know how they could help. Both agreed to partner-up with us, and work together to centrally collect funds for Chile. Masorti Olami is now working together with the different arms of our movement around the world in a centralized effort.
We were overwhelmed by how many people made donations, and by the level of generosity. But the campaign did not end there. By contacting many of the Masorti Rabbis in Santiago & Concepcion, during the first week after the earthquake, we gained a better picture of the situation, including details of the damage. We released a second campaign update on March 4th to the press and to our supporters and witnessed an instant increase in the volume of support and interest in the campaign. Donations started to come in by the minute, and visits to our website have never been so high. JTA, The Jewish Journal, Canada Jewish News and Jewish media outlets throughout the world picked up on our story, creating yet more impact. Read some of these press articles on our website at http://www.masortiworld.org/molami/in_the_press.
In the second week of the campaign, Rabbi Tzvi Graetz, Executive Director of Masorti Olami, arranged a conference call with Rabbi Angel Kreiman of Communidad Israelita De Concepcion, the Masorti/Conservative congregation in Concepcion, Chile which was close to the epi-center of the 8.8 magnitude earthquake of Feb 26th. This call took place at Congregation Agudath Israel with Rabbi Alan Silverstein and 25 members of the congregation who came to hear first hand Rabbi Kreiman’s description of the damage and trauma in Concepcion. Rabbi Kreiman himself is a native of Buenos Aires, Argentina having graduated the Latin-American Rabbinical Seminary in 1968. In 1994, his wife, Suzie, was killed in the terrorist bombing at the AMIA building (Jewish Communal Association) in Buenos Aires. Afterwards, he moved to Chile where he held the position of Chief Rabbi of Chile, before retiring and moving to the small Jewish community of Concepcion to become their Rabbi. Rabbi Kreiman’s daughter is Rabbi Claudia Kreiman, a Rabbi at Temple Beth Zion in Brookline, MA.
Rabbi Kreiman told the audience in Caldwell that the 3 storey synagogue in Concepcion had been very badly damaged, and city engineers estimate the repairs to be in the region of $200,000. He described how he had been in the town of Temuco, some 270 kms (170 miles) away from Concepcion over Shabbat when the earthquake struck. He was there to perform a Bar Mitzvah on Shabbat morning, and even though the earthquake hit on Friday night, the service still went ahead on Saturday morning. After Shabbat, the Bar Mitzvah participants decided not to celebrate Purim and Rabbi Kreiman rushed back to Concepcion to check on the synagogue and his congregants. He arrived in a town with no electricity, no running water and huge amounts of damage. In the synagogue itself, the ark had been damaged, but thankfully the Torah scrolls were not. The mikveh, the library and the Hebrew school also suffered damage. The clear-up operation still continues.
Rabbi Kreiman continued to tell the Caldwell crowd that Concepcion was hit much harder than Santiago, the capital city of Chile, but that the Chilean government is working hard to ensure that the entire country has food and shelter. He said that in Concepcion, many people are now living in wooden huts that the authorities have provided.
The Masorti congregation in Concepcion, (which is the only Jewish community) consists of approximately 100 people, many of whom regularly attend the egalitarian services in the synagogue. Their services cannot take place in the sanctuary until the necessary repairs are made, and in the meantime they are holding services in another room in the building which has been declared as safe. Rabbi Kreiman turned his thoughts to Pesach, and said that it will be very difficult for them to get wine, hagadot, and matzah and making seders is going to be a challenge. They need help to purchase and bring Kosher le’pesach foods from Santiago.
Since this conference call, efforts from supporters in the New Jersey area have increased. Gail Shapiro, the Co-ordinator of the Chilean Student Exchange at the Solomon Schechter Day School in West Orange, NJ asked families from the school to adopt a Concepcion Family for Pesach, in order to help them purchase Pesach foods. To date, more than 30 families have joined this program. The Parents Association at the same school also donated the proceeds from their annual Purim greeting card fundraiser to the Masorti Olami campaign to help the community in Concepcion. 13 year old Jonathan Wingens, who celebrated his Bar Mitzvah at Congregation Agudath Israel last Shabbat (March 13th) donated $1,000 of his Bar Mitzvah money to the Chile Relief Fund, and joined hundreds of other donors who are supporting our campaign.
In total, Masorti Olami has received more than $40,000 of donations for our Chile Earthquake Relief Fund from all over the world, and donations are still coming in.
If you would like to make a US tax-deductible donation, please send us a check payable to World Council of Synagogues, or visit http://tiny.cc/masortiolami to make a donation online using your credit card.
On behalf of Masorti Olami and the entire Chilean community, we thank you for your support.
For further information or donations, please contact email Rabbi Tzvi Graetz.
Please mail donations to : World Council of Synagogues, 3080 Broadway, New York NY, 10027 USA
To receive a Canadian tax receipt, please send a cheque made payable to USCJ, to Rhonda Schild, USCJ Northeast District, 1000 Finch Ave.W., #508 Toronto, ON M3J 2V5 or call 416 667-1717 or 1 800 417-1332 if you have any questions.
UPDATED March 3rd, 2010
The response to our Chile Earthquake Relief Fund, which we began on Monday of this week, has been extremely moving. So many of our supporters have sent good wishes, and the volume and speed at which people have sent donations has been impressive.
Many people have sent us questions and asked for an update about the situation in Chile, so here is the latest :
What is the Masorti community in Chile like ?
Most of the Jews in Chile are Masorti, and are affiliated to Masorti congregations. There are 6 Masorti congregations in total; 4 of them in Santiago, 1 in Vina del Mar, and 1 in Concepcion. A total of 7 Masorti Rabbis serve these kehillot, which also have active branches of the Chazit HaNoar and NOAM youth movements, the MAROM young adult movement, and regular Batei Midrash study groups. Masorti youth are very active, and Chile has large summer camps each year, as well as a Masorti Jewish day school, and a wide array of local community social action projects.
Is everyone in the Jewish community ok ?
We have managed to contact our Rabbis in Chile, who have reported that they and their families are ok. Rabbi Marcelo Kormis in Santiago told us, “Thank god we are ok. It was terrible. 2 million people are injured. We pray for them. Thank you for your concern.”
How about damage ?
In Concepcion, close to the epicenter of the earthquake, Rabbi Angel Kreiman told us that he went to the Synagogue, and “it was like the hurban habayit (destruction of the temple), the walls were all cracked and the roof had fallen down. I couldn’t stay there, so I got the sifrei Torah and left.” Rabbi Shmuel Szteinhendler in Santiago told us, “we have some damage to our home, but its not too severe … . we will try and replace things and try to go on, while also assisting our kehillah members and at the same time supporting the local community at large who have suffered so much.”
How is the Masorti Olami Chile Earthquake Relief Fund going to help ?
The Rabbis, along with leaders of the Jewish community have come together to form a Crisis Committee. They are the ones best placed to decide where the funds that we have raised will go. Rabbi Alejandro Bloch of Santiago told us on Monday, “we have invited all of the community to Ma’ariv, and will make sure that all their basic needs are taken care of.”
All donations that we receive will be sent to Chile for the rebuilding and repairs to our synagogues and the homes of our Masorti kehillot, as well as the wider Chilean community. These funds will ensure that our friends and colleagues will be able to pick up the pieces of their lives quickly and with the knowledge that they are supported by Jews from around the world. We hope that this recovery will be quick, as Rabbi Szteinhendler told us, “We''ll try to manage everything and get things straight as soon as possible, hopefully in time for Pessach.”
To make a US tax deductible donation to our Relief Fund, please click here and choose the Chile Earthquake Relief Fund in the program designation.
Thank you for your support,
Rabbi Tzvi Graetz