06 December 2010

Latest News from Congregation Or Hadash on the Fires outside Haifa

Below is a letter from Rabbi Edgar Nof, from Congregation Or-Hadash in Haifa regarding the latest on the forest fires outside of Haifa:

The fires are finally out, rebuilding begins. 

Dear Friends,

Today, Monday, Dec. 6th, is the first day we are fully back to work in our office with all our staff.

In spite of the horrific tragedy, we are directed by Hilel’s law: “Ma’alim Ba’kodesh Ve’lo Moridim”, which means we are putting our effort to keep optimism in the air and to take this experience to a higher spiritual level.

The truth is reality is very sad and depressing. 41 people have lost their lives, there are people who are badly hurt and are fighting for their lives as we write, and most of the population in the area is experiencing major depression.
This is the worst ecologic disaster Israel has known. Around half a million trees were burnt; the animals and wild life in the area suffered severe damage, a whole community was almost wiped out ( Kibbutz Beit Oren) and others suffered considerable damage. 20,000 people were evacuated from their homes.

I would like to point out a few positive aspects as well:

1.  In the name of Or Hadash Congregation, our Executive Director Ami Perlman, our President Dr. Yuri Kligerman and myself, we would like to thank each and every one of you who called, emailed, and sent us messages of concern. We would like to thank you for your support and encouragement. We have received calls from sister congregations in America, in Europe and in Israel, including Rabbi Marmur from HUC, Rabbi Maya Lebowitz, President of MARAM, Rabbi Gilad Kariv, Executive Director of the IMPJ and many others. We are deeply grateful for your willingness to reach out, for your support and help.

2. We often feel in Israel that the world does not understand us or likes us very much. In fact, and specifically in Chanukah, the first airplanes arriving to help were Greeks. More planes arrived immediately after, from Turkey, Spain, England, Russia, Cyprus, and Bulgaria and of course from America as well. We see the fact that so many countries recruited to assist us in our distress as a very encouraging sign and we are thankful for all their help.

3. The Israeli society immediately volunteered to help our firefighting forces, the police and the military. Citizens were waiting in line to help with anything and everything needed. People opened their hearts and homes to those that have been evacuated and did not know when they’ll be able to return home or what they will find when they do. While on our day to day routine we are engaged mostly in economic problems these days, when a tragedy like this happens we are all one and the spirit of mutual responsibility for one another awakens, showing its beauty.

Or Hadash congregation would also like to thank Haifa congregations, Rabbis and members: Ohel Abraham congregation, Leo Beck Congregation and Shirat Hayam Carmel Congregation for their beautiful contribution to help those in needs.
First action we took when the fire broke out on Thursday, Dec. 2nd was to organize an operation room along with Ami Perlman, our Executive Director and Dr. Yuri Kligerman, our President.
We contacted all our congregants and staff families to see who was evacuated and needed help.
Ami Perlman has created wonderful relationships with the Druze population in the villages of Ossafia and Daliat-el-carmel, and has invited them to stay with us in case they needed to be evacuated. We have workers who live in Tirat Carmel who were evacuated and our overseas coordinator Nofi, lives in the Druze village Ossafia and was not able to come to work.

One of our Bar Mitzvah boys is from Kibbutz Beit Oren which was partially burnt. The estimated cost of damage is around 20 million dollars. Rabbi Eric Gurvis from Temple Shalom of Newton, MA, who just celebrated his own son’s Jacob Bar Mitzvah last week, took upon himself to make the Kiddush for the boy. We would like to help the boy’s family who lost everything in the fire.  
Or Hadash and Kibbutz Beit Oren have been connected for the past 20 years in a very strong friendship. Every year on Yom Kippur I bring a Torah Book to the Kibbutz so they can pray, and often I celebrate weddings, Bar/Bat Mitzvah, baby naming ceremonies and more.
Today we are going to meet some of the people from Beit Oren who were invited to a Chanukah dinner we are hosting at Or Hadash for Rabbi Joel Soffin and a group of his students.

Our President Dr. Yuri Kligermna’s sister is working in Yamin Ord, the boarding school that was badly hit by the fire. We are in touch with the school to help them in any way possible. Shlomit Berger, our treasurer is helping organize this operation and is collecting clothes for the school’s students.

Prior to this horrific fire, we used to plant trees on a regular basis with Keren Kayemet Le’Israel. We plan on continuing planting trees once the authorities clear it is alright to reach the area and do so.

This morning we are lighting Chanukah candles with Mirjam Jurman and the patients in the rehabilitation center Nof Hagefen. Or Hadash congregants Chava Mayer, Masha Goren, Vered Ivtzan, Pnina Suchetzki and Shulamit Shahaf have joined me for the celebration. Later on we will visit Else Rigler, wife of Or Hadash past Chairman David z”l.

Although the atmosphere is far from festive this Chanukah, we continue with our planned programs and schedule. We understand that most people are not in the mood to celebrate, the air in Haifa and its surrounding is heavy with smoke and fire retardants materials. This morning we were finally blessed with a few drops of rain and we are full of hope we can get back to our busy routine within the next week to ten days.

Last night after teaching Bar/Bat Mitzvah workshop, we had a conference with the Chairman of IMPJ, Rabbi Gilad Kariv and we plan an organized assistance in cooperation, on any and all fronts needing help.

I apologize for not being able to reply to all the emails sent to us, we are grateful and we will answer each and every one.

Wishing you a Happy Chanukah and a wonderful week,

In Friendship,


Rabbi Dr. Edgar Nof
Or-Hadash Congregation
55 Hantke St. P.O. Box 3711
Haifa, 31036 Israel
Tel: 972-52-361-3983
Fax: 972-4-8343907
E-mail: overseas@or-hadash.org.il