By Julie Carpenter
Special to the TJP
In February, when Texans were hit with a brutal winter storm including snow and freezing temperatures, along with a catastrophic loss of power and drinking water, Shearith Israel looked for ways to help not just congregants, but fellow Dallas residents in need.
Husband and wife congregants, Jeff Wolf and Colleen O’Connor, reached out to Rabbi Ari Sunshine. Jeff said, “Colleen and I were very fortunate and thankful to have had electricity and water during the ice storm. We felt very blessed, and our thoughts turned to those less fortunate.” The couple worked with Rabbi Sunshine to start the Shearith Israel Winter Relief Fund. Jeff added, “Rabbi Sunshine was instrumental in facilitating the drive.”
Jewish Family Service of Greater Dallas (JFS) and The North Texas Food Bank (NTFB) were designated as beneficiaries. Ultimately, the fund raised $30,800, which was split evenly between the two nonprofits.
Cathy Barker, JFS CEO, said, “The winter storm was just one crisis too much for so many of the families we serve. It was their breaking point. As an agency already challenged to raise the support needed to help families through the pandemic, having this additional disaster just made things that much harder.
“The gift of $15,400 raised by Shearith Israel came at just the right moment. We were able to help families recovering from burst pipes and in need of a warm, dry place to stay. Family needs averaged around $1,000 each, so this gift immediately impacted 15 families who had no other means of support. For these families, FEMA was only a distant possibility.
“Shearith’s vision to raise funds and to help us respond when all we could do was put one foot in front of the other, meant so much to us.”
Zahra Perez, relationship manager at The North Texas Food Bank, extended her appreciation and gratitude for their gift of $15,400, adding that “when the weather impacted the food supply chain, we quickly mobilized to redistribute truckloads of fresh food waylaid by the winter storm to agencies, so that they were able to safely get into the hands of those who are hungry. Shearith’s funds helped us meet the needs of Texas residents.”
At the Shearith Israel Purim Celebration, Rabbi Sunshine told the congregation the final total raised and said, “Our Shearith Family truly fulfilled the Jewish value of matanot l’evyonim by contributing to this emergency effort to support these two vital organizations in our Jewish and larger community.”
Julie Carpenter is communications director at Shearith Israel.