Jewish Community Responds to Haiti

Worldwide sympathy and support for the people of Haiti following the January 12 earthquake that hit the country, has resulted in numerous efforts to send aid to that impoverished area. As reported in Community’s January 15 edition, our local Jewish community is also responding to the call for help.

[Image: After an eight-hour effort, the IDF rescue team pulled a Haitian man alive out of the rubble on January 17, 2010. (IDF)]

The local Hope for Haiti initiative began last summer, prior to the earthquake, with a special Tikkun Olam (repair of the world) project between Keneseth Israel and Temple Shalom congregations designed to address poverty in a developing country.  Since then, $17,000 has been raised – $10,000 for earthquake relief and $7,000 for a water purification program.

Paul Rosenblum, who according to project co-chair Karen Bloom masterminded the project, decided to start the local effort to raise money for a small village in the country. Bloom joined the program in August and agreed to help “adopt a community” in Haiti to address poverty issues.

The community, Ravine Sable, is four hours south of Port-au-Prince and was not directly affected by the quake. However, Temple Shalom’s Rabbi Stanley Miles notes, “Support for the community has taken on an even higher profile now since many Port-au-Prince residents who were forced to leave their homes have taken refuge in villages like Ravine Sable. The need for heightened services there is a given.”

“They have nothing,” said Bloom. “There’s a high mortality rate, kids walk four hours a day to and from school and they are often taken out of school to walk an hour each way to get water for their families.

In September, she met with youngsters involved in the Kehila middle school program to tell them about the Jewish community’s program and they chose to raise money by raking leaves at Adath Jeshurun. On December 25, high school students raised $1,000 with a Chinese dinner fundraiser, and they earned $2,300 before that.

Students Laura Rosenberg at Collegiate and Gillian Lazarus at Kentucky Country Day have been particularly involved in organizing other events including a KCD bake sale that raised $1,500 last week and $1,000 the week before. Young Elementary School is also planning a fundraiser.

Following the earthquake, Lazarus wanted to increase funding efforts immediately and persuaded the KCD headmaster and other department heads to let her raise as much money as she could with whatever projects she chose to pursue. Her efforts have been featured on WAVE and WHAS-TV and on the radio as well.

Meanwhile, Rosenblum approached Rabbi Miles about having the Jewish community take the local effort community wide and introduce it as an interfaith endeavor along with churches and other faith groups in our area. Soon African American churches were willing to take part and the Louisville Outreach for Haiti was born. West End churches have already contributed over $400 to the cause and the University of Louisville and Spalding University are ready to contribute to the campaign. Rosenblum’s son, Nathaniel, a student at Brandeis, has also helped generate $1,200 on that campus.

The group has been working with physicians on SOS (Supplies Overseas) by collecting medical equipment for Ravine Sable and throughout Haiti. Bloom is shipping a package this week.

“Our mission,” she says, “is to cross religious, ethnic and racial barriers and come together for a common cause. It takes a city to save a village.” There is a website for the organization at

Bloom notes there is a Jewish community in Haiti. In fact, the IDF set up tents on the land of a member of the Jewish community in order to get medical help there. Any funds donated to Hope for Haiti or The Louisville Outreach for Haiti goes directly to those in need. She suggests noting which organization should receive your funds on your check.

“Haiti is just 800 miles off the U.S. coast,” says Bloom, “they’re in our backyard. We cannot turn our backs on them.”

The Louisville Outreach for Haiti biggest fundraising event will be an Antiques Appraisal Fair to be held on March 7 at Keneseth Israel from 1-5 p.m. Vintage clothing, books, coins and artwork can be brought in for expert evaluation.

For information about how you can help with the Hope for Haiti project, contact Rosenblum at Donations can be made online and/or checks made payable to Hope for Haiti can be sent to either Keneseth Israel at 2531 Taylorsville Road (40205) or Temple Shalom at 4615 Lowe Road (40220). You may designate whether your contribution is to go to Hope for Haiti or to the Louisville Outreach for Haiti project.

The international Jewish community is responding to the crisis as well through the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), which has opened a mailbox for disaster relief in Haiti. Donations can be made online at or mailed to: P.O. Box 530, 132 East 43rd St., New York, NY 10017, Attn: Haiti Crisis.

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