Helping Haiti


“Do not stand idly by while your neighbor bleeds,” the familiar biblical injunction mandates when fellow humans are in extreme distress. The devastating earthquake in Haiti, measuring 7.0 on the Richter Scale, which struck with what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called “biblical” fury, cries out to Jews and people of all faiths and creeds to respond charitably to this disaster.


Haiti was already the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere before the latest disaster struck. Within the past five years there have been two devastating hurricanes which took their toll on the capital city of Port-au-Prince, which was all but leveled in the earthquake. Rene Previl, President of Haiti, whose presidential palace was among the tens of thousands of buildings to collapse, initially estimated that as many as 50,000 people may have died in the earthquake. More recent estimates indicate that as many as a staggering 200,000 may have been killed, with many thousands more gravely wounded. At least 1.5 million Haitians have been left homeless. Still others have been trapped in the rubble of fallen buildings in scorching heat; roads are difficult or impossible to traverse; and there is an acute shortage of food and drinking water.

The truly horrific images and descriptions of the monstrous calamity in Haiti have stirred and shocked people all over the world. Veteran journalists who are used to covering wars and natural disasters have been overwhelmed emotionally by the scenes of newly orphaned children, the horribly wounded who do not have adequate medical care and the growing stacks of bodies throughout the city. There also lurk the dangers of widespread infection, disease and violence as the frustration and desperation grow more acute with each passing hour.

The United States and dozens of other nations have responded dramatically by sending hundreds of planes loaded with food, water, medicine and other relief supplies. President Barack Obama has promised that America will do all within its power to send relief to Haiti, and hundreds of transport planes and soldiers continue to arrive on the scene, coping with the overwhelming challenges of delivering aid and promoting order.

Along with support from myriad countries, non-governmental agencies such as the American Red Cross and its partner chapters from around the world are rushing to assist. The Magen David Adom (MDA), Israel’s Red Cross chapter, is sending a delegation of specialists and medical teams to Haiti to aid earthquake victims. During its 80-year history, MDA has helped populations in distress in many locations around the world, including those affected by drought in Uganda, those suffering starvation in Biafra, Columbia and Ethiopia and survivors of other strong earthquakes. The MDA is a member of the International Committee of the Red Cross, and in the United States the American Friends of Magen David Adom (ARMDI) is the authorized tax-exempt fundraising organization in the United States. The MDA Emergency Disaster Fund has indicated that 100 percent of funds donated will be allocated to Magen David Adom’s humanitarian efforts in Haiti.

Concerned members of the St. Louis community can of course contribute directly to the American Red Cross through its St. Louis Chapter. The American Red Cross is the primary American direct relief organization during disasters such as the earthquake in Haiti. The texting campaign the Red Cross has promoted, which allows Americans to make a $10 donation by texting the word “HAITI” to 90999; the effort has already raised over $22 million for Haitian relief.

There is also much that the organized Jewish community is doing in response to the disaster in Haiti. The Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), of which the Jewish Federation of St. Louis is an active member, is partnering with the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) to provide aid and relief to the victims of the earthquake in Haiti.

Jewish Federations are coordinating with the Jewish Coalition for Disaster Relief, which brings together North American Jewish organizations to assist victims of natural or man-made disasters on a non-sectarian basis. The coalition, managed by the JDC, consists of organizations such as the Union for Reform Judaism, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, World ORT, Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the American Jewish World Service, and the American Jewish Committee. B’nai B’rith International has also mobilized its membership to respond to the humanitarian crisis in Haiti. The coalition’s work maximizes resources, coordinates the activities of member agencies, informs the public about the disaster and the Jewish response, and demonstrates the long tradition of Jewish humanitarianism in times of crisis.

In the wake of the Southeast Asia tsunami, the Federation movement raised more than $10 million for JDC’s $18 million relief effort. Federations also spearheaded a nearly $30 million effort for victims of Hurricane Katrina and helped in the relief efforts in the aftermath of several major fires in California.

The American Jewish community, including the Jewish community of St. Louis, has long been among the most generous segments of the population in responding to humanitarian crises, such as the tragic earthquake in Haiti. Elsewhere in this edition is information on how to make contributions for the earthquake relief effort through both general and Jewish groups. We know that our readers will once again take the steps necessary to assure that we will not stand idly by while our neighbors bleed.