A delegation from the Israeli Scout Movement and the Jewish Agency was scheduled to leave for New York City on Wednesday night to provide help and support for the Jewish communities there as they recover from the effects of Hurricane Sandy.
The group of 15 young adults are part of a Jewish Agency initiative meant to provide emotional and practical support for Jewish communities on the East Coast after basic services such as electricity and telephones were damaged in the storm.
“The Jewish Agency sends delegations across the Jewish world throughout the year and during times of crisis,” said the organization’s director-general Alan Hoffman. “The delegation that will leave this week for New York is first and foremost going in order to show solidarity with the Jews of the United States.”
Half of those participating in the 10-day mission are Russian-speakers who were selected from dozens of volunteers drawn from those who have previously worked in Jewish Agency summer camps in former Soviet Union countries. The other half were drawn from various Scout Movement programs.
The Jewish Agency estimates that there are 800,000 Russian-speaking Jews living in the US, a quarter of whom are on the northeastern seaboard. Many are elderly people residing in high-rise buildings that lost power when Sandy blasted into America two weeks ago, cutting them off from the world for several days. Community centers were also damaged, interrupting routine community services.
The delegation will join forces with the UJA-Federation of New York that is already engaged in rehabilitating the community. The youths will help clean and repair community centers and synagogues that were damaged in the storm. They will also help in distributing food and supplies as well as providing essential equipment and social visits for lonely elderly people in buildings that are still cut off from electricity.
“The Israel Scouts are very active among North America Jewry through the Scouts’ Garin Tzabar and Caravan programs,” said Gal Ben-Shimol, secretary-general of the Israeli Scouts. “This is an opportunity to give back to the Jewish community and to realize our ideals in practice.”
The Garin Tzabar and Caravan programs are outreach projects that aim to build ties between Israel and young people living in the US and Europe.