By Kate Bigam Kaput
Editor’s note: This article first appeared on urj.org and is reprinted with permission (https://urj.org/blog/2019/10/24/greene-family-camp-and-temple-emanu-el-rally-help-families-impacted-dallas-tornadoes)
On Sunday night, the Dallas/Fort Worth area was hit by severe thunderstorms, including 10 confirmed tornadoes, which devastated parts of Dallas and the surrounding communities and directly impacted members of the Jewish community. On behalf of the Reform Movement, our hearts and prayers go out to all whose homes, neighborhoods, schools, and businesses have been damaged and to all who are displaced.
The staff of our URJ Greene Family Camp (GFC) immediately knew they wanted to mobilize to help affected families by providing child care, parent education and communal gathering opportunities. They partnered with Temple Emanu-El Youth Learning + Engagement to put on a day camp at the synagogue, which is open 9 a.m. through 3 p.m. through Friday, Oct. 25, for children whose schools have been closed due to the storm.
“This day camp served some of the families most deeply affected by the tornadoes, allowing parents to meet with insurance agents and begin the process of recovery while we provide a fun, kid-centered place for their children to play and have fun,” says Rabbi Andrew Terkel, director of year-round programs at GFC.
The day camp was a combined effort between the camp and the synagogue, with help from Eli Cohn-Wein, executive chef of the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center of Dallas (himself an alumnus of the Reform Movement’s camping system) and several GFC summer staff members who stepped in to help.
The program was decided upon and announced late Monday night, and by Tuesday morning, the initiative was up and running, complete with arts and crafts, music, cooking, sports, obstacle courses and face painting.
Though schools have since reopened, GFC and Temple Emanu-El stand ready to continue to assist those who were displaced or otherwise impacted by the storm. Their staff and programming remain on standby through end-of-day Friday – just in case families still need child care during the day.
The Reform Movement has rallied to aid those impacted by past natural disasters, including Hurricane Harvey. Then, too, Greene Family Camp played a leading role in efforts to help and provide support to those most affected by the storm.
“It’s nice to be able to do what we are best at and be helpful to the community,” Rabbi Terkel says, “and we’re so glad to have such strong synagogue partners like Temple Emanu-El in best serving the Jewish and wider community of Dallas – not just in tough times, but all the time.
How You Can Help
If you want to send assistance to those impacted by the recent tornadoes in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, consider sending gift cards to the two local Reform congregations that are gathering donations to be shared with those in their community who are most in need. Here are their requests:
1. Temple Shalom is collecting gift cards to Target, Lowe’s, Kohl’s and Home Depot.
Schools to the south of Temple Shalom have been damaged beyond repair (in the Dallas Independent School District), and more than 100 families have been displaced in the synagogue’s neighborhood district, the Richardson ISD.
The temple has offered its facility space for affected organizations in need of meeting space and made sure members know they can come to the synagogue for electricity and hospitality. The congregation is providing ongoing updates on its website as a means of updating its members about how they can offer donations and provide additional help.
Donations should be sent to:
Temple Shalom of Dallas
c/o Steve Lewis, Executive Director
6930 Alpha Road
Dallas, TX 75240-3602
2. Temple Emanuel of Dallas is collecting Visa gift cards, as well as gift cards for Corner Bakery and HEB Grocery (which can be purchased online).
These gift cards will first be distributed to those impacted within the synagogue community, and any unused or unclaimed donations will be distributed to other community partners whose members are in needs. Donations should be sent to:
Temple Emanu-El Dallas
c/o Karen Hoffman
8500 Hillcrest Ave.
Dallas, TX 75225-4204
See more photos from this partnership between URJ Greene Family Camp and Temple Emanu-El on the camp’s Facebook page, then check out GFC’s year-round and summer programming offerings.
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Kate Bigam Kaput is the assistant director of messaging and branding for the Union for Reform Judaism and, in this role, serves as a content manager and editor for ReformJudaism.org. A prolific essayist and lifestyle blogger, Kate’s writing has been featured in The Washington Post, Esquire, Woman’s Day, Cleveland Magazine, HeyAlma.com, Jewish Women Archive and more. Kate, who grew up at Temple Beth Shalom in Hudson, Ohio, holds a degree in magazine journalism and lives in Cleveland, Ohio, with her husband.