When disaster hits our Jewish communities — near or far — the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia is there. Such was the case when Hurricane Maria decimated the island of Puerto Rico in September 2017, causing nearly 4,000 deaths and over $90 billion in damage. Our Jewish Federation wasted no time joining with partners to raise emergency relief funds to ensure that Jews and non-Jews alike were safe, secure and had access to basic necessities.

This past April, travelers from our local communities joined with the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) for a hands-on tikkun olam mission to still-recovering Puerto Rico. All six Greater Philadelphia participants landed on the island carrying duffle bags filled with medical supplies for donation to the Afya Foundation, a nongovernmental organization that provides medical supplies to those in need. Then our mission-goers rolled up their sleeves and got to work.

For three days, volunteers worked to repair a home and also connect to the local Jewish community. They visited area rabbis; met with partner organizations Project TEN, IsraAID, Chabad of Puerto Rico, and the Foundation for Puerto Rico to learn more about their lifesaving work; and spent hands-on time learning about water filtration systems, security camera equipment, generators and solar panels. They were also welcomed into a local classroom, where they learned about teacher trainings designed to help students coping with PTSD.

With a tiny Jewish population of about 1,500, Puerto Rico is part of JFNA’s Network of Independent Communities, which unites regions too small to support their own Jewish Federations. Through this system, we all look after one another — meaning that when catastrophic events occur, it’s of the utmost importance that Jewish Federations across North America to join together to support independent communities.

Our Jewish Community Fund allows us to allocate funds to address urgent needs, including for disaster relief. To donate, click here. And to see where you can travel with purpose through the Jewish Federation, click here.