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► Update: 6/2/13 7:00 am

Thank you to all of you who called, emailed and texted with your concern for our safety and your prayers for our City.

Just before Shabbat Sirens went off all over the Oklahoma City Metro, I don’t recall ever seeing the city in what can best be described as a war zone. Thank G‑d our family and the Center was spared. The city had already seen enough pain, this is overwhelming. Please pray for the families who lost loved ones for those who were injured and for the countless who are no homeless and despair.

  • Yesterday, right after Shabbat was over (nightfall) we were out assessing how we can assist the communities affected by the Friday tornadoes.
  • Early this morning we were out delivering some essential supplies to some of the areas that did not have what they needed.
  • All day today we will be working on bringing aid, comfort and uplift to many of the neighborhoods.
  • We will be also be joining with members form the entire Jewish community in clean up effort called Mitzvahs in Moore organized by Michael Pollack.
  • Rabbi Zalman Teichtel of Chabad at Kansas University is coming with 12 student volunteers to help us with these efforts today; they will be distributing Walmart and Target Gift Cards, clothing and special soft children’s blankets.

Later tonight we will have a much better idea of what the further needs are.

We need to thank so many people and companies who are actively helping us help others. 
But first and foremost we appreciate our Rabbinic Interns and their incredible can-do attitude of. They are stellar examples of what Kiddush Hashem means, bringing honor to the name of Hashem and the Jewish people. We all owe them a huge Yasher koach!

(See more about it at www.jewishokcrelief.com or visit our Chabad of Oklahoma City facebook at www.facebook/chabadokc and please LIKE the page) 

To all the energetic Volunteers and to Ronna and Larry Davis for helping cover our overhead cost, making sure that we can afford it and no money is used form the relief efforts!

Lets keep up the special work of People helping People.
 
Rabbi Ovadia

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► MEMORIAL DAY UPDATE:

Greetings and blessings to Y’all

I have not updated you much recently as we have been putting in 18 hour days to try and do as much as possible to help all those effected by the tornadoes.

IMG_9887.jpgThe pain still raw and the heart still hurts, especially for the children lost.

While the country prepared yesterday for today’s memorial holiday by cleaning off the grill, Chabad experienced an an especially physically exhausting but spiritually uplifting day, helping bring relief aide to the communities of Moore, Dale, Newcastle etc.

So many acts of goodness and kindness;

With the help of the generosity of so many here locally and so many from around the country we are empowered us to help others.

Some of the things we were involved in

  • We organized and led a group of locals and over 35 youth form the Dallas area in recovery and cleanup,
  • The Rabbinic interns continued their efforts to reach as many homeowners as possible to bring the Direct Aide Relief Gift Cards donated by the OU – Orthodox Union.
  • Bringing hugs, uplift and comfort abd providing a patient listening ear to those so many who are in pain die to their losses.
  • Providing high-end used clothing to those who mentioned the need.
  • To help encourage and in appreciation, Hosted a Kosher BBQ dinner for all who volunteered.

We need to thank so many people and companies who are actively helping us help others. 
But first and foremost we appreciate our Rabbinic Interns and their incredible can-do attitude of. They are stellar examples of what Kiddush Hashem means, bringing honor to the name of Hashem and the Jewish people. We all owe them a huge Yasher koach!

(See more about it at www.jewishokcrelief.com or visit our Chabad of Oklahoma City facebook at www.facebook/chabadokc and please LIKE the page) 

To all the energetic Volunteers and to Ronna and Larry Davis for helping cober our overhead cost, making sure that we can afford it and no money is used form the relief efforts!

Lets keep up the special work of People helping People. 
Rabbi Ovadia

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O.U. Lends Hand to Oklahoma Aid Effort
By Karen Schwartz  - Chabad.org |   May 26, 2013 2:28 PM

The Chabad Community Center of Oklahoma City, which is on the ground organizing relief efforts for the communities hit hard by last week’s devastating tornado, has received $15,000 in disaster-relief funds from the Orthodox Union. The funds were received just before the Jewish Sabbath, and are being distributed to those hardest hit over the Memorial Day weekend and throughout the week.

EuqH7388288.jpg“On behalf of those here in Oklahoma who will receive this help, my thanks go to all of the O.U. members and friends who were so generous in a time of real need,” said Rabbi Ovadia Goldman, director of who said the money will be used for store gift cards and cash relief to area residents whose homes were destroyed.

Rabbi Judah Isaacs, director of community engagement for the Orthodox Union, said it aims to provide assistance in the face of such disasters and examine where other Jewish help can be found.

As word spread about the tornado’s tremendous impact and damage done to residential areas, businesses and personal property, the Orthodox Union sent a message to synagogues letting them know about the fund-raising effort. Then it connected to Chabad, which opened its own center as a shelter, and has been collecting and distributing supplies for displaced families and the elderly.

“I think we really reached out in a lot of ways to Chabad because we knew Chabad was on the ground really in force and helping people, and that was clear,” Isaacs said. “What we did is we sent funds that could be used for the gift cards that they’re handing out. And we knew that was something that needed to be done immediately.”

The O.U.’s fund appeal, which was posted on the national organization’s website, as well as on Facebook, Twitter and other social media, has welcomed the response from its members and from others, said O.U. president Martin Nachimson. He has asked for continued action from the community to help disaster victims, and said the organization will check in with Goldman over the course of the coming week.

“Both for Chabad and the Orthodox Union, these relief efforts constitute a true kiddush Hashem, a sanctification of God’s name,” said Nachimson, “and it is highly appropriate that we have transmitted these funds in the hours before Shabbat.”
 

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► Update: Part of the group of 40 volunteers arrive on one of the sites. - 5/26/2013 

► Update: We are planning to host a BBQ dinner for all who volunteer tonight at 7:00 PM Let us know if your coming. NO RELIEF FUNDS WILL BE USED FOR THIS BBQ - 5/26/2013

► Update:  Surveying the hardest hit neighborhood that is locked down by the federal government. 5/25/2013 

► Update: OKC Chabad helps tornado victims - Jewish Herald-Voice - 5/23/2013 

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Rabbinic Interns Describe Picking Up the Pieces
By Karen Schwartz - Chabad.org  |   May 24, 2013 9:00 AM

On the morning of May 21, Berel Kesselman, Mendel Mishulovin and Mendy Grossbaum set off in a silver Toyota stuffed with supplies to help victims of the tornado in Moore, Okla., one of the towns hit hardest by a devastating tornado the day before.

Part of the local Glenna and Richard Tanenbaum Rabbinic Internship Program, they and Rabbi Ovadia Goldman, co-director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Oklahoma City, had spent the past night making call after call to community members, and preparing to offer the Chabad center and its services to anyone in need.

Driving down the interstate, the three men said they saw areas where houses had been reduced to rubble, so they parked on the side of the highway and went to talk to people sifting through what was left of their belongings. “There was a woman, nothing in her house was left standing except her staircase,” said Mishulovin. “It was horrific to see, blocks and blocks of houses destroyed.”

They stopped at the area’s command center and offered comfort to those displaced by the tornado, many of whom appreciated the inquiries about their well-being and plans for the next few days. Then they went to nearby Newcastle to check on a Jewish family they knew.

Stores were swarming with people buying water, diapers and other basic goods. “It was clearly for the people of Moore—the entire city was doing whatever they could,” he said. “Basics came rolling in.”

‘Every Person is Important’

For the past few days, the trio has been handing out items like Wal-Mart gift cards and teddy bears, and checking in on people in their homes and shelters. Mishulovin, who is from a family of emissaries in West Bloomfield, Mich., said his upbringing has given him the foundation to understand that every person is important, and not to have preconceived notions about anyone. Though he has spent time connecting with people in communities before, this was his first experience dealing with a natural disaster, and he said he was moved by how much Chabad’s efforts meant to the people they met. “Never underestimate what your concern for someone else might mean to them, what one word of care does to someone’s spirit,” he said.

Rabbinic intern Berel Kesselman had planned on being in New York this week, but his flight from Oklahoma was cancelled because of the weather. He decided to stick around, and said he hopes that he has raised the spirits of some of the people he has met as much as they have uplifted him with their strength and determination. “I hope we gave them encouragement, and let people know that we are there for them and praying for them, that people are willing to help—and not just that people are willing to help, but that they’re helping,” he said.

“Never underestimate what you can do—even a little thing can make a big difference.”

Also the son of shluchim, Chabad emissaries, and originally from London, England, this was Kesselman’s first experience with a tornado, he said, and his first time assisting individuals whose lives have been hit so hard. “People lost whole homes in 15 minutes,” he said, the disbelief still resonant in his voice. Kesselman plans to go on to New York to continue his studies, but noted that he has learned some valuable lessons.

“Even if someone says they don’t need help, at a time like this, you have to help them,” he said. “Everything could be good, and 15 minutes later, it’s all gone.”

Walking up to people as they picked through their personal belongings and starting up conversation was tough, they said, but they were well-received, with men and women opening up and sharing their stories, worries and situations. “It was a good feeling,” said Kesselman, “and it was productive.”

Raised to help others

The perseverance of those who have lost so much stood out to rabbinic intern Mendy Grossbaum, who grew up in Toronto, Canada, in an emissary family and came to Oklahoma this fall after a stint studying in Crown Heights, N.Y. He said the idea of helping people in a time of need isn’t new to any of the three interns; they were raised on the idea of providing spiritual and physical assistance wherever and whenever they can.

However, noted Grossbaum, “this was a bigger experience. It was a serious thing that devastated a whole community, a whole city,” he said. “I never saw so many people at once missing a house and losing everything.”

“Never underestimate what your concern for someone else might mean to them, what one word of care does to someone’s spirit,” said Mishulovin.

In the face of such devastation, people are picking up the pieces to rebuild, he said. The interns have gotten the chance to witness that firsthand, and said they have been touched by the way people are pushing forward. “Even though their whole livelihoods were destroyed in front of their eyes, they were in a good mood, ready to take on the challenges,” said Grossbaum.

He added that the plan is to keep visiting Moore and offering all the help they can, noting that Chabad has a call number where they can be reached and a relief website set up to connect those in need with resources. They’re also working to bring in volunteers to help with the massive cleanup efforts, he said.

Meanwhile, the interns have been keeping every inch of their car stocked with packaged food and bottled water, as well as toys for the kids, said Grossbaum. “We’ll keep canvassing the neighborhoods,” he said. “And we’ll be more than happy to assist in any way possible.”

In the next few weeks, the three young men are likely to go their own ways, and spend the summer visiting small towns or summer camps as part of their work for Chabad.

But Mishulovin said he’ll take lessons from Oklahoma with him. “Never underestimate what you can do—even a little thing can make a big difference,” he said, adding that it’s important “how thankful we have to be every day that we’re OK.”
 

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Update Tuesday 5/23/2013 1:00 pm


Oklahoma Legislature Lauds Jewish Tornado Assistance

Showing its gratitude for the immediate and ongoing support and assistance offered by Jewish groups and individuals from around the country, the Oklahoma House of Representatives gave a standing ovation Thursday to Rabbi Ovadia Goldman, co-director of The Chabad Community Center of Southern Oklahoma, and New York State Assemblyman Phillip Goldfeder.

Introduced by Oklahoma Legislator Paul Wesselhoft, Goldman and Goldfeder were called to the podium and thanked for the collective efforts, which are continuing daily.

A13_4493-(2).jpgAs soon as the tornado stuck, The Chabad Community Center of Southern Oklahoma opened its doors, and has been collecting and distributing food, supplies and funds to assist those devastated by the tornado that sped through parts of Oklahoma City and its suburbs Monday afternoon, killing 24 and causing widespread destruction.

Chabad Community Center For Jewish Life and Learning

Chabad center staff and rabbinic interns continue to visit the impacted areas throughout the day and night, giving both material and moral support to those who have suffered devastating losses.

“The response has been overwhelming,” Goldman said earlier, adding that "calls have come in from individuals and organizations in New York, Ohio, Iowa, Illinois and California—and even from abroad. And they have been accompanied with kind words and offers to help in any way they can.”

Oklahoma legislator Paul Wesselhoft introduces New York State Assemblyman Phillip Goldfeder and Rabbi Ovadia Goldman to the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

And that’s especially meaningful, he said, because “the community that was hit is facing some short-term real needs, and they’re going to be facing longer-term needs as well.”

The rabbi emphasized that 100 percent of all disaster-relief donations will be provided to those in need. “Members of our local community have come forward and will cover all the administrative costs for us, so that anyone wishing to help those struck by this disaster can know that everything they give goes to those afflicted.”

Goldman advised that that anyone interested in making a donation can do so at the Chabad disaster relief web site.

 

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Update Tuesday 5/22/2013 1:00 am

With so many homes, stores and even banks in ruins, it’s been an exhausting, emotionally draining—but in so many ways heartwarming—day of relief efforts. 

We opened the Chabad center early for people who wanted to drop off supply items before going to work. A large group from a local church came by early in the day and there was a slow trickle of people all day bringing basic supplies. We’re organizing a truck load of 20,000 pounds of meat products and 1000 pounds of cheese product to come from Kosher companies.

We’ve been in close contact with state and local government officials and relief agencies to help coordinate shipments and let them know what else companies from out-of-state are willing to donate. 

Our three rabbinic interns, Berel Kesselman, Mendy Grossbaum and Mendel Misholovin have been amazing. They left the center early to provide direct assistance and counseling and to help with the delivery of basic supplies in the affected neighborhoods.

 Here’s a brief report from them:

We left early to purchase some last minute items.

IMG_0072.jpgOur first stop was Newcastle, Okla., to visit with families we had met during our trips during the Jewish holidays. Most already had the basic necessities, but some still needed and everyone truly appreciated seeing us there. All were uplifted by our presence and really wanted to talk.

We then went to some of the shelters visited with distraught people for counsel and spiritual uplift. Gave out some supply items.  Many felt real good about visit and asked if we would return tomorrow. We said we’d try. Though many did, we did not take any photos in shelters out of privacy respect.

We canvassed the most devastated areas in Moore. Here the need for emotional uplift and support is huge. Asking what would be needs etc. Stopped to help out with ‘shlepping’ debris (although this was not our primary focus). Let everyone know of the shelter at Chabad.

All in all it’s been emotionally draining. These people are devastated. In the pictures you can see a woman near her home and staircase, that’s how she survived, underneath that staircase.

What they need immediately  and can really use: cash, store gift cards (Wal Mart, Target. Sams Club etc.)

It’s really given us a new perspectives on what is truly ‘important’ in life.

We’ll be back tomorrow with a little more experience.


We just finished a  meeting to plan and prepare relief efforts for tomorrow.

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Update Tuesday 5/21/2013 9:30 am

Dear friends,

One final update for this morning

The situation is heart wrenching, to be so close to such devastation yet so distant in circumstance. However, to witness the tremendous outpour of support is comforting and heartwarming.

I encourage you to continue to contribute as generously as possible to your preferred relief organization.

Here at Chabad we continue to work all morning on gathering supplies; diapers, canned goods, nonperishable food, snack items, water and sports drinks. We will be working with other organizations and authorities to deliver these supplies as they come.

We continue to reach out directly to individuals and families assessing their needs and offering counseling.

Chabad has activated a disaster relief fund, so individuals may give specifically to the tornadoes relief and recovery efforts. All these funds will be distributed, without any administrative fees, to help bring relief to the people impacted by this horrific disaster.

If you know anyone that was affected and is in need of immediate assistance or can use a comforting shoulder, please let us know right away

I would also like to ask that you continue to pray for our brave first responders, for those who lost loved ones, for the injured and for all those who were affected by the tornadoes.

Rabbi Ovadia Goldman

P.S.

I would like to bring to your attention the following important message

 

OKLAHOMA BLOOD INSTITUTE

Donors to the Oklahoma Blood Institute provide every drop of blood needed by patients in all metro-Oklahoma City hospitals and 140 others across the state.

Presently, the state's blood supply is adequate to meet the needs of patients in all hospitals caring for victims of the Moore tornado.

Since there is no substitute for blood, the supply constantly needs to be replenished. Anyone 16 years or older and in good health can generally donate blood. Those with O-negative and Rh-negative blood types are most needed.

Locations of donor centers and mobile blood drives can be found at www.obi.org.

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Update Tuesday 5/21/2013 12:30 am

Thank you to all those who already reached out to help

Thank you to the Rabbinic Interns for their non-stop assistance.

As many of you asked about dropping things off this morning, the Chabad Center will be open from 7:45 am onwards.  

Numerous organizations and individuals across the country and Israel havebeen in touch with us over the last few hours and it is humbling to see how much the Jewish community wants to assist.

Please share this link with any and all www.jewishokcrelief.com

I will try to keep you posted on all that develops, however our primary focus in the next few days will be to maximize all our resources to bring relief directly to those affected.

Keep up the prayers!

Rabbi Ovadia Goldman 

PS. Please forward this e-mail to all your family and friends here in the Oklahoma City area!

Chabad Community Center   
3000 W Hefner Rd   
Oklahoma City, OK 73120   
405-286-0900

My cell 405-503-9006

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Update Tuesday 5/20/2013 9:00 pm

To all my dear friends,

I write to you in haste due to the urgency of the matter.

As our heartfelt prayers go out to all who lost loved ones in this devastating tornado, all the injured and all those who suffered loss.

We who were spared need to do all we can to help those who weren't.

1. We are currently at the Chabad Community Center calling anyone we know who lives in the affected area to find out if they are ok and if there is anything we can do assist them. We will also do our utmost to help locate people that can’t be reached for now.

If you know anyone who lives in these areas please let us know right away

2. We are opening the Center for temporary shelter, especially for any families that may need it.

3. We are in touch with law enforcement and offered to assist in any way necessary, counseling etc.

4. As soon as possible the interns will begin to help deliver vehicle-loads of needed supplies to the affected areas.

Please help us by dropping off basic supplies (especially the items they are asking for including water, toiletries, etc.). No perishables. If you can’t deliver them today, please let us know when you will. We will be at the Chabad until at least 10:30 tonight to receive these items. And then againtomorrow morning.

Together, y’all, my dear friends, as a Jewish community should and can help in the response to this devastating catastrophe.

With deep prayers and blessings for safety,

Rabbi Ovadia Goldman

PS. Please forward this e-mail to all your family and friends here in the Oklahoma City area!

Chabad Community Center  
3000 W Hefner Rd  
Oklahoma City, OK 73120  
405-286-0900

My cell 405-503-9006