From afar, members of the Pittsburgh Jewish community worked with Israeli firefighters to counter flames that ravaged towns throughout Israel late last month.
Thanks to an emergency campaign administered by the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, since Sunday, Nov. 27 more than $25,000 has been raised to support those affected by the fires.
“That money is going to go immediately to the relief of families who have lost their homes or belongings or are fleeing the fires until things get under control,” explained Adam Hertzman, director of marketing for the Federation.
The Federation is working with the Jewish Agency for Israel to distribute funds to those requiring immediate assistance, added Hertzman.
Nearly 100,000 people have been displaced by the more than 200 fires, according to Federation reports.
Additionally, approximately 32,000 acres of land were eradicated, the Jewish Agency said.
“In many places, essential services such as electricity and train lines have been interrupted. Many major roads have been closed intermittently,” the Federation noted in a statement. “The impact on Israelis will be long lasting.”
While firefighters from both Israel and abroad worked to ensure that no lives were lost, the road to repair will be long, said Hertzman.
Locals joined Jews throughout the
diaspora to give generously to the emergency campaign, he said. “We have lots of people in Jewish Pittsburgh who care about Israel, and obviously we have many Jewish families in Pittsburgh with family or friends there.”
Natan Sharansky, chairman of the Jewish Agency, lauded the effort.
“World Jewry feels closely connected to what is taking place in Israel and comes to our help without hesitation,” he said. “We are proud of our partners and appreciate their solidarity when it matters the most.”
Those relationships and efforts ensured that tragedy was averted in Pittsburgh’s partnership region, said Hertzman.
“Years ago, some of the money that the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh allocates to our partnership region was allocated to purchase a pumper truck for Misgav, and that proved to be important as pretty much all of the fire equipment was in use to fight the forest fires in that area,” he said, adding that although Karmiel and Misgav did not lose any homes to the recent fires, “there were definitely homes threatened.”
Although the fires have now subsided, the Federation plans on extending the emergency campaign several more days, said Hertzman.
“We support these agencies in Israel with the Jewish Federation’s annual campaign for situations just like this — when the fires started, the agencies were able to help immediately even before anyone raised any money,” noted Jeffrey Finkelstein, president and CEO of the Federation. “The additional $25,000 will help the victims recover and get back on their feet, which is why an emergency campaign is important too.”
Adam Reinherz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.