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A Magnitude of Compassion

Our prayers and thoughts are with the people of Turkey and Syria, in the aftermath of this devastating earthquake (7.8) on Monday, February 6. It is so tragic and difficult to comprehend that the death toll is currently around 19,000. May the memories of the victims be a blessing. We pray for comfort and healing for those who lost loved ones, for the safety of those who are still missing, and for the strength of the rescue workers. 

In this week’s Torah portion, Yitro, in Exodus 19; there is an earthquake that happens before the giving of the Ten Commandments. Perhaps there is something we can learn from this portion that will help us know how to best support those in need in Turkey and Syria.  Ex. 19:18 “Now Mount Sinai was altogether on smoke, because God descended upon it in fire; and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly.”

The mountain that “quaked” was Mount Sinai, and it was thewhole mountain.”  So while we were not in the area of the current earthquake in Turkey, our portion is teaching us that we need to feel as if we are connected – we again stand at Mount Sinai, where we gathered as a community, where we received the Ten Commandments.  When something around the world happens, we are still witnesses. We are still connected.

We have the instinct to say- “How can I help?”  “Where should I give?”  “What can I do?”  In the portion, after the earthquake, the shofar blows.  The sound that is to awaken us, alert us to listen. And within that space of time, the call is to find a trusted organization who knows how to respond.  Lots of us may think we know what is needed (food, water, supplies) and want to send them, but it is better to allow local or regional agencies to purchase or supply the needs.

Our inclination is to immediately make a donation. When donations are earmarked for relief, in a short time (typically weeks or months) the relief will end, and then places need to rebuild. If you can find organizations that either work in both humanitarian response AND development, or just development agencies, that’s helpful. These individuals will need years of rebuilding their infrastructure. Rebuilding homes, microfinancing opportunities to open businesses, and putting the electrical grid together will be key to bringing healing and rebirth.

There are lots of international organizations that are on the ground in every disaster. Agencies like:

Save the Children

International Rescue Committee

Doctors Without Borders

Red Crescent

These large agencies are successful because they connect directly to on the ground local groups that are doing the work. They know the culture, the people, and the language.

In addition, these Jewish organizations have efforts as well:

Jewish Federation Earthquake Relief Fund


JFNA’s emergency response campaign

HIAS (National) Partner Relief

URJ working with JDC

For those that are interested in continuing these efforts through and with our community, please contact Janice Schwartz Donahue, Social Justice Chair

A special thank you to KI Congregants: Janice Schwartz Donahue and Lindsey Rosenberg for their research and support with this EKI.