Jewish aid workers head for typhoon-ravaged Philippines

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Israeli and Jewish organizations are rushing aid to the Philippines, where 2,275 people were confirmed dead as of midweek and as many as 500,000 were left homeless by Typhoon Haiyan, which struck the Pacific Island nation Nov. 8.

The Israel Defense Forces sent a 148-member humanitarian delegation on Nov. 13 to provide search and rescue and medical services to some of the hardest-hit areas. The team left Israel equipped with a field hospital as well as 100 tons of humanitarian and medical supplies, according to the IDF. It planned to set up the field hospital in Tacloban, capital of the Leyte province.

Officers from the national search and rescue unit of the Home Front Command and senior doctors from the IDF medical corps are part of the team.

A typhoon-ravaged area in the Philippines photo/caritas-cafod-wikimedia

On Nov. 11, five search and rescue and medical experts arrived in Tacloban to determine the urgency of a rapid IDF response. Based on their assessment, the chief of the General Staff, Lt.-Gen. Benjamin Gantz, ordered the immediate deployment of the large-scale delegation.

The Israeli disaster relief organization IsraAid sent a team of medical professionals and trauma and relief specialists on Nov. 11, supported by the American Jewish Committee and Jewish communities from North America. Another team was expected to land by the end of the week, according to IsraAid.

In North America, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee is collecting funds for relief efforts. JDC representatives are consulting with local authorities, the Filipino Jewish community and global partners to assess the immediate needs of the survivors and said it will send a team to the area to assess the situation on the ground.

“Our heartfelt prayers go out to the Filipino people in the wake of yesterday’s deadly storm,” Alan Gill, JDC’s chief executive officer, said last weekend. “We immediately activated our network of global partners and will leverage our previous experience in the region to provide immediate, strategic relief to survivors in their time of need.”

Collaborating with JDC is the Jewish Federations of North America. JFNA’s emergency committee “is coordinating the Federation response with JDC and its global disaster relief partners,” according to a press release.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Filipino people suffering from this terrible storm’s unimaginable destruction,” said Cheryl Fishbein, chair of the JFNA emergency committee.

The Union for Reform Judaism is collecting donations that will be distributed to aid groups working in affected areas, while the American Jewish Committee and B’nai B’rith International are both contributing to IsraAid for humanitarian efforts to assist the victims.

American Jewish World Service is also collecting disaster funds. “As Jews, we must act together to help those in need in the wake of the devastation wrought by Typhoon Haiyan,” said Ruth Messinger, president of AJWS, in an email statement.

The relief efforts “are especially poignant for us given the Philippines’ life-saving actions during the Second World War when the country offered safe haven to more than 1,000 Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazi onslaught,” said JDC’s Gill. — jta, & j. staff


How you can help

• The S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation has created an emergency fund to help victims of Typhoon Haiyan; 100 percent of the monies collected will go to partners on the ground in the Philippines, including the JDC, at

• S.F.-based Jewish Family and Children’s Services also has set up a fund at Designate gifts to “Philippines Typhoon Relief Fund,” or call (415) 449-1256 to donate by phone.