WITH bushfires engulfing Australia, the Jewish community has sprung into action to aid victims and firefighters, through donations of funds and practical items such as food and other essentials.
Philanthropists John and Pauline Gandel and their family have donated $1 million through Gandel Philanthropy – to fund firefighting efforts with donations to volunteer firefighters, to fund stricken communities through Australian Red Cross, Salvation Army and St Vincent de Paul Society, and to fund efforts to save wildlife.
Law firm Arnold Bloch Leibler has committed $100,000 in support of organisations that provide assistance to people and communities affected by the fires.
“We are pleased to stand alongside other members of the business community in providing much needed support,” the firm posted on Facebook.
With Executive Council of Australian Jewry president Jillian Segal describing Jewish Australians as “utterly devastated”, the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies (JBOD) has partnered with communal relief organisation Stand Up in an appeal that has already raised $590,000 which will be disbursed through Emergency Services NSW and Vinnies.
The Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) is coordinating with a support group led by community leaders and philanthropists David Smorgon, Ruth Alter, Ian Davis and Fiona Geminder for a fundraising campaign to assist fellow Victorians impacted by the fires. Funds raised will be consolidated with the assistance of the JCCV.
Stand Up, meanwhile, is coordinating donations for bushfire relief in other states.
While baking and making packages for victims and firefighters, Sydney’s Rabbi Dovid and Laya Slavin and their team at Jewish community initiative Our Big Kitchen were visited by Wentworth MP Dave Sharma and his family, who encouraged their work.
— Dave Sharma (@DaveSharma) January 7, 2020
“We are right in the thick of it at Our Big Kitchen!” Sharma posted on Facebook. “Cooking and baking for our rural firefighting volunteers and brave front-line personnel. If you feel like helping out, they are taking two volunteer shifts per day.”
Meanwhile, Rabbi Mendel Kastel and the team at Jewish House have conducted a cook-off and sent blankets to communities in crisis on the South Coast.
Chabad of Rural & Regional Australia (RARA) is urging donations of supplies and funds – through the related Chai Foundation – for bushfire victims and volunteer firefighters, and is shuttling supplies to Jewish and some non-Jewish evacuees, co-director Rabbi Yossi Rodal told The AJN.
JNF Australia will direct part of its upcoming Green Sunday campaign towards relief efforts, said CEO Dan Springer, and is coordinating with the Israeli embassy to arrange visits by Israeli forest management experts to help develop longer-term solutions.
Union for Progressive Judaism (UPJ) congregations are organising clothing, furniture and appliances for those who lost homes and property, including a Go Fund Me Appeal for Emanuel Synagogue’s Cecily Parris and husband Roger, who lost their home and possessions in Conjola Park.
UPJ co-presidents David Knoll and Brian Samuel urged the community to “dig deep and assist those affected during these troubled times”.
Songwriter Ilan Kidron, lead singer of dance music group the Potbelleez, has organised a fundraising concert to aid the Rural Fire Service. Swingin’ For The Rain will take place at the Bondi Bowling Club on February 15. “We wanted to help by doing what we do best,” Kidron told The AJN.
Entrepreneur and philanthropist Richie Harkham posted an offer on Facebook to provide free temporary accommodation at his Harkham Wines lodge in the Hunter Valley. And veterinarian Dr Sam Kovac, known as
“Doctor Sam”, has offered to put up families with pets evacuated from the fires at no cost at Southern Cross Veterinary Clinic in Surry Hills.
In Melbourne, Jewish volunteer group Souper Kitchen is coordinating with Foodbank Victoria to collect donated pantry staples, pet food, and personal care items that will be dropped off at the Foodbank warehouse, using a truck donated by a local car hire firm.
The Rabbinical Council of Australia and New Zealand and the Rabbinical Council of Victoria are co-hosting an Evening of Tefillah, Tzedakah and Solidarity for bushfire victims this Sunday at 7pm at St Kilda Shule, which will include an appeal.
Elwood Shule has set up a website page for members to send messages of encouragement and thanks to the firefighters.
At a Temple Beth Israel Pop-Up Shabbat held at Red Hill, Rabbi Gersh Lazarow led prayers for bushfire victims, encouraging congregants to donate to relief efforts.
And Progressive Judaism Victoria (PJV), taking a longer view, is introducing a climate-change education program, including a presentation of trees to all bnei mitzvah students at PJV congregations, its president Philip Bliss announced.
Emmy Monash Aged Care has posted on Facebook, asking people to drop in personal care items at its office for relief packs to be assembled by residents and youth in the community.
With an estimated 480 million animals killed in the fires so far, injured wildlife drew a compassionate response.
The Bialik College Parents’ Association is raising money for Wildlife Victoria’s bushfire appeal for shelters and carers to help rebuild animal enclosures and other facilities.
Melburnian Sharon Kuperholz set up a collection point for animal food and medical supplies – donated from a list on the Wildlife 4 Warriors website at her son Ryan’s South Yarra carwash, from where she is shuttling carloads of supplies to the group’s outer suburban collection points.
Meanwhile, from Israel, Jerusalem’s Biblical Zoo has responded to the tragedy by donating veterinary medical supplies – including burn creams, milk replacers, wound sprays and hydration concentrates – to aid wildlife injured in the fires.
The AJN understands the campaign was initiated by the zoo’s international relations manager Rachael Risby-Raz, who is originally from Melbourne.