OU Announces: Sderot Shabbat Campaign Surpasses Fundraising Goal for Providing Emergency Services

09 Oct 2007


The Orthodox Union announced today that its goal of raising $250,000 on Sderot Shabbat, June 9 (Parshat Shelach), has been surpassed by $85,000 with the total continuing to increase. The fundraising campaign was held in OU congregations across North America with the support of the Rabbinical Council of America to provide emergency relief for the residents of Sderot, who are attacked on a regular basis by Kassam rockets fired by terrorists from Gaza. Synagogues, schools and individuals have contributed generously to the campaign.

According to Rabbi Avi Berman, Director-General of OU Israel, “The OU’s seven-year presence in Sderot allowed us to accomplish great things in the city. In the past year, we have been working really hard to focus and to deal with the trauma there.”

Rabbi Berman has been active in demonstrating to OU board members, constituents and staff the role of the OU in Sderot. Sderot Shabbat followed the visit of Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, OU Executive Vice President, and staff members of the Seymour J. Abrams Orthodox Union Jerusalem World Center to Sderot in late May. During their visit, the OU delegation was forced to take cover when the city was hit by two Kassam rockets.

According to Rabbi Weinreb, “Our efforts in Sderot preceded the Kassam onslaught and will continue there as long as they are needed. The success of our recent Sderot Shabbat appeal assures us that our public understands the unique importance of what we are doing in Sderot and stands ready to partner with us. We invite all who visit Israel to arrange to visit Sderot to witness the impact of their generosity.”

The upcoming OU Thanksgiving Mission to Israel, November 19-25, will include a visit to Sderot.

The OU Israel Center, which runs a vast range of social, cultural, and religious programs for people of all ages throughout the country, has developed programs focusing on the unique needs of Sderot residents. These programs are made possible and supported in great part by the funds raised from the Sderot Shabbat campaign.

The OU Israel Trauma Team, in which therapists visit schools to help children suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder — one-on-one and in group settings — now services 220 children, an increase from 100 before the campaign. With the numbers growing weekly, OU Israel has a goal of helping 1,000 children.

OU Israel offers Makom Balev youth programs all over Israel, but in Sderot there is a difference — it is operated in a bomb shelter. The demand for Makom Balev has overwhelmed the current structure and OU Israel plans to start a second location in a new bomb shelter with an above-ground playground to provide children with an opportunity for outdoor play until the Red Alert sounds and they retreat underground.

In August, Makom Balev sponsored a retreat for 250 people to Giv’at Shmuel, located north of Sderot along the Mediterranean coast, to provide welcome relief for families. According to Rabbi Berman, “The idea of the retreat was to take the participants out of Sderot to a location that is entirely safe. Once they’re relaxed, activities are held to rejuvenate, inspire, and spiritually strengthen them. Families bond in these calm settings and it’s extremely restorative to their emotional well-being. Their stress levels go down tremendously and they get fresh air, something they cannot risk doing in Sderot! Giving these families a week away from physical danger was exactly what they needed.”

Rabbi Berman added, “When a Makom Balev staff member walks the streets of Sderot and is seen by participants, you immediately see faces go from mourning to happiness within mere seconds.”

In addition to the children’s programs, the OU Israel Center reaches out to the adults of Sderot through its Sapir College Jewish Education Seminars, which include classes, trips and Shabbatonim to keep the students from dropping out of school, while providing spiritual uplift to deal with daily life in Sderot. A Lev Yehudi center presents informal adult education throughout the city comprised of classes, partner study and Bar/Bat Mitzvah preparation for adults.

“There is so much to be done in Sderot,” declared Rabbi Berman.”We hope that as more funding comes in our programs will expand to benefit every single resident.”

Contributions may be made online at www.ou.org/community_services/sderot/fps and may also be sent by check to Sderot Shabbat Emergency Fundraising Campaign, 11 Broadway, New York, NY 10004. For more information on how to support OU Israel Sderot initiatives and on the OU Thanksgiving Mission to Israel contact Allyson Gur-Aryeh at allysong@ou.org or 212-613-8124.