Jewish Disaster Response Corps

Jewish Disaster Response Corps, a program of NECHAMA, assists communities in disaster recovery while exhibiting Jewish values and promoting broad and visible Jewish participation. Through its core service learning programs, JDRC embodies the spirit of tikkun olam in all corners of the US.
Location: St. Louis Park , MN
Year founded: 1996

Description

Jewish Disaster Response Corps (JDRC) is program of NECHAMA - Jewish Response to Disaster, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that assists all communities in disaster preparedness, response and recovery while exhibiting Jewish values and promoting broad and visible Jewish participation. The JDRC Program provides a Jewish partner for institutions and individuals to work with, thus filling the gap between disaster response and the Jewish community’s commitment to help others. Since 2009, JDRC has assisted ten different communities in their recovery from natural disasters. By providing a Jewish partner for both Jewish and non-Jewish institutions and individuals to work with, the JDRC leverages Jewish values to meet the needs of American communities recovering from natural disasters. Through a combination of direct service, emotional support, and mutual dialogue, JDRC volunteers provide natural disaster survivors with labor and a renewed sense of will to rebuild their homes and lives. By participating in a JDRC service learning program, volunteers form personal connections with first responders, survivors, peers and local Jewish community members. Upon returning to their home communities after having made a tangible difference in the lives of others, JDRC participants consistently report a renewed commitment to taking an active role in Tikkun Olam (repairing the world), and a sense of belonging to a greater Jewish community. NECHAMA is seeking a grant opportunities to allow us to increase our capacity allowing us to expand our already successful program to meet the large demand.

Jewish Disaster Response Corps Program

About

Jewish Disaster Response Corps (JDRC) is program of NECHAMA - Jewish Response to Disaster, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that assists communities in disaster preparedness, response and recovery while exhibiting Jewish values and promoting broad and visible Jewish participation. The JDRC Program provides service learning trips, especially for youth and young adults, to assist with long term disaster recovery around the United States. Service-learning trips  include direct service to disaster survivors and a structured curriculum which gives participants the opportunity to reflect on the work and their faith. The Program also leads  an annual interfaith trip, where Muslim and Jewish young adults work alongside each other and build lasting relationships and understanding.


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What is the mission and purpose of this program?

NECHAMA’s JDRC Program assists all communities in disaster recovery while exhibiting Jewish values and promoting broad and visible Jewish participation. NECHAMA provides a Jewish partner for institutions and individuals to work with, thus filling the gap between disaster recovery and the Jewish community’s commitment to help others.

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Program Description

The JDRC Program provides a Jewish partner for institutions and individuals to work with, thus filling the gap between disaster response and the Jewish community’s commitment to help others. Since 2009, JDRC has assisted ten different communities in their recovery from natural disasters. By providing a Jewish partner for both Jewish and non-Jewish institutions and individuals to work with, the JDRC leverages Jewish values to meet the needs of American communities recovering from natural disasters. Through a combination of direct service, emotional support, and mutual dialogue, JDRC volunteers provide natural disaster survivors with labor and a renewed sense of will to rebuild their homes and lives. By participating in a JDRC service learning program, volunteers form personal connections with first responders, survivors, peers and local Jewish community members. Upon returning to their home communities after having made a tangible difference in the lives of others, JDRC participants consistently report a renewed commitment to taking an active role in tikkun olam (repairing the world), and a sense of belonging to a greater Jewish community. NECHAMA is seeking a grant opportunities to allow us to increase our capacity allowing us to expand our already successful program to meet the large demand.


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Demonstrated Need

JDRC is committed to mobilizing volunteers to respond to natural disasters in areas that have fallen out of the news media, and face a lack of volunteer labor and financial support for rebuilding. Our service learning activities are frequently located in what’s known as the "Bible Belt," where the combination of frequent disasters and unique cultural milieu allow for a rich and impactful service-learning experience for our participants and communities served. The JDRC Program exclusively serves homeowners who are uninsured or underinsured in order to maximize the impact of our volunteer hours, any building materials provided and to ensure that JDRC’s presence in no way competes with local skilled laborers. Through the JDRC Program, NECHAMA, is committed to building a strong and dedicated presence of Jewish volunteers in long term disaster recovery in the United States, NECHAMA does not put assisting Jewish individuals or communities ahead of meeting the needs of others.

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Program Accomplishments

This year, Jewish Disaster Response Corps (JDRC) joined forces with NECHAMA – Jewish Response to Disaster to become the only Jewish organization dedicated to disaster preparedness, response and recovery in the United States. Through their combined histories, they have brought much needed assistance to thousands of disaster survivors while engaging generations of Jewish volunteers and communities across the country. Both organizations have strong track records in providing service opportunities, especially for young adults, and in building strong connections with local Jewish communities.


Service Learning Trips: Since its founding in 2009, JDRC has served ten communities across the United States through service-learning trips that combine structured Jewish learning with direct service in response to natural disasters. The JDRC Program partners with Hillels, Jewish Summer Camps, and other student groups to give participants a unique and life changing experiences. Past projects include rebuilding work in Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Galveston, Texas; Nashville, Tennessee; Yazoo City, Mississippi; Birmingham, Alabama; Joplin, MO; Greater Oklahoma City, OK; Villonia, Arkansas and various areas of New York.


Hurricane Sandy Relief Project: In October of 2012, Hurricane Sandy devastated areas of the East Coast, damaging and destroying hundreds of thousands of homes. Together, NECHAMA and JDRC managed more than 2,000 volunteers in New York who participates in service and repaired hundreds of homes for under- and uninsured survivors. From 2013-2014, JDRC partnered with New York Says Thank You (NYSTY) on their initiative to rebuild over 100 first responders homes damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. JDRC and NECHAMA mobilized local Jewish groups to rebuild homes in Long Island, The Rockaways, Breezy Point and Staten Island. In addition to the money saved in labor costs through volunteering, generous funding from The Jewish Federations of North America, UJA-Federation of New York, URJ Religious Action Center, Robin Hood Foundation, the American Red Cross and others allowed JDRC and NECHAMA to purchase building materials to further ease the financial strain of the homeowners.


9/11 "Barn Raising": In commemoration of the 13th Anniversary of 9/11 JDRC and NYSTY mobilized volunteers from across the county for a community-wide “barn-raising” to rebuild 1 Day Ranch – an animal rescue and therapeutic riding facility in Oklahoma destroyed by the 2013 tornadoes. Jewish participants volunteered side-by-side with 9/11 first responders, family members of 9/11 victims, natural disaster survivors and first responders from across the nation to rebuild the 1 Day Ranch center. Over 1,000 volunteers assisted in various projects throughout the weekend.


Interfaith Work: The JDRC Program offers customized service-learning experiences for Muslim and Jewish college students in partnership with local faith-based community leaders. Participants engage in a week of intensive rebuilding work and interfaith dialogue led by JDRC facilitators, and get to know one another on a deeper level in a safe and intimate setting. The process of living, learning and working together forms bonds that extend far beyond the week of volunteer service, and provides an inspiring model for interfaith cooperation across America. Our interfaith service trip in Joplin, MO is featured in the film "Of Many" produced by Chelsea Clinton.

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How do you measure the success of your program?

The success of the JDRC program is jointly measured by the impact on communities served and participants mobilized. This includes both the quantitative (numbers of communities/individuals served, number of volunteers, labor costs saved, hours of labor contributed, etc.) and qualitative (participant feedback forms, emotional support to disaster survivors, connection with local Jewish and interfaith partners, commitment to taking an active role in service back home(post service-learning trip), introducing communities to the Jewish value of tikkun olam, etc). We have been successful on all fronts. Since its founding, JDRC has mobilized over 1,000 volunteers for long term disaster recovery, thus impacting the physical, spiritual, and financial well-being of individuals in more than 10 communities in the United States. Through the provision of direct service and emotional support, JDRC has helped hundreds of survivors of natural disasters rebuild their homes, communities, and lives. As of 2015, JDRC participants have contributed tens of thousands of hours of service and saved homeowners over $1,000,000 in reduced materials and labor costs as valued by FEMA. Additionally, through long term presence on the ground, JDRC builds lasting partnerships, young Jewish leaders, and feelings of good-will toward Jews worldwide.

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