Masorti Olami - Chile Earthquake Relief Fund

March 18, 2010   |   3 Nissan 5770
Dear Friends,

I wanted to write and update you on the progress of our Chile Earthquake Relief Fund.

As you know, when we heard and read the news about the devastating earthquake in Chile on the eve of Purim, we were shocked and wanted to help. Just 2 days later, on Monday, March 1st we opened the Chile Earthquake Relief Fund in an attempt to raise funds which would go to rebuilding synagogues, homes and the lives of our friends in Chile. At that time we never realized just how great the response to our campaign would be.

Within the first few hours, donations began to come in online, along with phone calls of support and pledges that checks would be sent. Former Masorti Olami President, Rabbi Alan Silverstein of Congregation Agudath Israel in Caldwell, NJ told us that he too had thought of offering support for the Chilean Jewish community, and that his congregation's Purim charity collection would be coming to us. That same day, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, and the Masorti Movement in Israel also contacted us, wanting to know how they could help. Both agreed to partner-up with us, and work together to centrally collect funds for Chile. Masorti Olami is now working together with the different arms of our movement around the world in a centralized effort.

After we released a second campaign update on March 4th to the press and to our supporters and witnessed an instant increase in the volume of support and interest in the campaign. Donations started to come in by the minute, and visits to our website have never been so high. JTA, The Jewish Journal, Canada Jewish News and Jewish media outlets throughout the world picked up on our story, creating yet more impact. Read some of these press articles on our website at http://www.masortiworld.org/molami/in_the_press.

Pictures from Concepcion
n the second week of the campaign, I participated in a conference call with Rabbi Angel Kreiman of Communidad Israelita De Concepcion, the Masorti/Conservative congregation in Concepcion, Chile which was close to the epi-center of the 8.8 magnitude earthquake of Feb 26th.   This call took place at Congregation Agudath Israel with Rabbi Alan Silverstein and 25 members of the congregation who came to hear first hand Rabbi Kreiman's description of the damage and trauma in Concepcion. Rabbi Kreiman himself is a native of Buenos Aires, Argentina having graduated the Latin-American Rabbinical Seminary in 1968. In 1994, his wife, Suzie, was killed in the terrorist bombing at the AMIA building (Jewish Communal Association) in Buenos Aires. Afterwards, he moved to Chile where he held the position of Chief Rabbi of Chile, before retiring and moving to the small Jewish community of Concepcion to become their Rabbi. Rabbi Kreiman's daughter is Rabbi Claudia Kreiman, a Rabbi at Temple Beth Zion in Brookline, MA.

Rabbi Kreiman told the audience in Caldwell that the 3 storey synagogue in Concepcion had been very badly damaged, and city engineers estimate the repairs to be in the region of $200,000. He described how he had been in the town of Temuco, some 270 kms (170 miles) away from Concepcion over Shabbat when the earthquake struck. He was there to perform a Bar Mitzvah on Shabbat morning, and even though the earthquake hit on Friday night, the service still went ahead on Saturday morning. After Shabbat, the Bar Mitzvah participants decided not to celebrate Purim and Rabbi Kreiman rushed back to Concepcion to check on the synagogue and his congregants. He arrived in a town with no electricity, no running water and huge amounts of damage. In the synagogue itself, the ark had been damaged, but thankfully the Torah scrolls were not. The mikveh, the library and the Hebrew school also suffered damage. The clear-up operation still continues.

Rabbi Kreiman continued to tell the Caldwell crowd that Concepcion was hit much harder than Santiago, the capital city of Chile, but that the Chilean government is working hard to ensure that the entire country has food and shelter. He said that in Concepcion, many people are now living in wooden huts that the authorities have provided.

The Masorti congregation in Concepcion, (which is the only Jewish community) consists of approximately 100 people, many of whom regularly attend the egalitarian services in the synagogue. Their services cannot take place in the sanctuary until the necessary repairs are made, and in the meantime they are holding services in another room in the building which has been declared as safe. Rabbi Kreiman turned his thoughts to Pesach, and said that it will be very difficult for them to get wine, hagadot, and matzah and making seders is going to be a challenge. They need help to purchase and bring Kosher le'pesach foods from Santiago.

Since this conference call, efforts from supporters in the New Jersey area have increased. Gail Shapiro, the Co-ordinator of the Chilean Student Exchange at the Solomon Schechter Day School in West Orange, NJ asked families from the school to adopt a Concepcion Family for Pesach, in order to help them purchase Pesach foods. To date, more than 30 families have joined this program. The Parents Association at the same school also donated the proceeds from their annual Purim greeting card fundraiser to the Masorti Olami campaign to help the community in Concepcion. 13 year old Jonathan Wingens, who celebrated his Bar Mitzvah at Congregation Agudath Israel last Shabbat (March 13th) donated $1,000 of his Bar Mitzvah money to the Chile Relief Fund, and joined hundreds of other donors who are supporting our campaign.

In total, Masorti Olami has received more than $40,000 of donations for our Chile Earthquake Relief Fund from all over the world, and donations are still coming in.

If you would like to make a US tax-deductible donation, please send us a check payable to World Council of Synagogues, or visit http://tiny.cc.masortiolami to make a donation online using your credit card.

On behalf of Masorti Olami and the entire Chilean community, we thank you for your support.

Rabbi Tzvi Graetz
Executive Director