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2015-05-08 digital edition

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May 8, 2015  RSS feed
World News

Text: T T T

Where is the Jewish aid to Nepal going?

By URIEL HEILMAN JTA news service

NEW YORK – Almost as soon as news of Nepal’s earthquake reached the wider world, Jewish aid groups began mobilizing humanitarian efforts to help the victims. In Israel, that meant dispatching first responders to Nepal; in America, it mostly meant raising and allocating money.

A team of search volunteers, led by Chabad Rabbi Chezky Lifshitz, board a helicopter in Kathmandu to look for missing persons, including 25 stranded Israeli hikers. A team of search volunteers, led by Chabad Rabbi Chezky Lifshitz, board a helicopter in Kathmandu to look for missing persons, including 25 stranded Israeli hikers.

How is the Jewish aid being deployed in Nepal?


The biggest Jewish on-theground response has come from Israel, which has sent more than 260 Israeli soldiers, doctors and rescue experts to the disaster zone – the largest of all the international aid teams on the ground, according to the Israeli Consulate in New York. The 170-person Israeli Defense Forces delegation has been helping with search-andrescue operations and setting up field hospitals with two operating rooms, four intensive-care rooms, 80 beds and neonatal care.

Magen David Adom, Israel’s version of the Red Cross, also sent a group of doctors, paramedics and medical supplies to the country, and rescue and recovery workers from ZAKA and United Hatzalah are in Nepal. The Israeli nonprofit Tevel b’Tzedek, which has had a presence in Nepal for eight years, is helping to provide emergency shelter and meet other urgent needs.

IsraAid, a 14-year-old Israeli nonprofit that focuses on disaster relief work, made headlines when its workers led an international effort to rescue a woman who had been buried in debris since the earthquake hit five days earlier.

Some of the Israeli groups receive American Jewish support – IsraAid, for example, is funded by some Jewish federations, the American Jewish Committee and B’nai B’rith International – but most of the American Jewish money dedicated to Nepal is not going through Israeli groups.

Jewish Federations

Tampa Bay area federations have appealed to community members to make donations to the Nepal Relief Fund set up by the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) ( JFNA pledges that 100 percent of donations will go to disaster relief.

Since the Nepal quake, nonfederation Jewish institutions such as the Orthodox Union also have asked constituents to make Nepal relief donations through the JFNA

Most of the money raised for humanitarian aid goes to the Jewish Federations’ overseas partner organization, the JDC.

American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC)

The JDC collects money for special disaster relief appeals from Jewish federations and individual donors and foundations.

After the Nepal earthquake hit, JDC, which did not have a presence in the country, sent medical equipment to the IDF field hospital including two neonatal incubators. The JDC also sent funds to Magen David Adom to assist the Nepalese Red Cross, to UNICEF to provide emergency supplies for children including water and sanitary materials, and to Tevel B’tzedek to assist with providing shelter.

Meanwhile, the JDC dispatched several staffers to Nepal, including a disaster relief expert who is also a field medic, JDC’s India country director and others with experience in disaster relief and work in the developing world.

Typically, JDC disaster relief efforts last for years and include helping to rebuild schools, restore jobs and provide post-trauma care.

The JDC also coordinates the Jewish Coalition for Disaster Relief, a collection of 49 Jewish agencies that have raised funds for various disasters and in some cases have implemented their own disaster relief programs.

American Jewish World Service

American Jewish World Service (AJWS) works in six countries in Asia, but not Nepal. Following the earthquake, however, the organization sprung into action, raising $800,000 for Nepal disaster relief in just five days and beginning to distribute the funds to local recipient organizations. AJWS’s focus is on rural communities, minorities, women and gays.

To that end, the first round of AJWS grants to Nepal are going to a group providing medical support and earthquake relief to HIV-positive LGBT people; an organization that provides free and low-cost medical care to Nepal’s most destitute; a group that focuses on health care, education and employment for poor communities in remote mountain villages; and a women’s rights organization providing pregnant mothers with shelter and other basic necessities. AJWS is also supporting International Medical Corps’ work providing earthquake survivors with first aid and psychosocial support.

AJWS became a major Jewish aid organization after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, for which it collected nearly $11 million. Some of AJWS’s money has come from the Jewish Federations.


With outposts around the world, Chabad emissaries often are the first Jews to respond in person to disasters in far-flung places. After the earthquake struck Nepal, Rabbi Chezky Lifshitz of Chabad of Nepal began bringing hygiene supplies, food, fresh water and fruit to clusters of Nepalese citizens whose homes had turned to rubble, distributing some 2,000 meals per day, according to Chabad. The rabbi also borrowed a helicopter to hitch a ride to the mountainous region of Dhunche, where some 25 Israeli hikers were stranded and later were airlifted out.

The movement is also collecting funds for Nepal earthquake relief.

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