A community-based effort to build a storm shelter, flood shelters and other disaster relief projects in Georgia is underway, the first such effort in the U.S. for Jewish residents of the Deep South.
The $500,000 project, which has received about $20 million in private and government funding, will help the Jewish community rebuild the city of DeKalb County after Hurricane Irma struck the region last week.
It is also being funded through a $1 million donation from the New York Jewish Federation, which is the nation’s largest Jewish umbrella organization.
“DeKalb’s Jewish community, along with the other local communities, are working together to build flood shelters, shelters for seniors and disabled people, and other community-wide disaster relief needs,” said Rabbi David Kahan, executive director of the New England Regional Council of Jewish Organizations.
The initiative comes as a storm system that devastated the Gulf Coast region of Florida has now battered Florida’s southern mainland, and more than 30 deaths have been reported.
The storm brought record-breaking winds, heavy rain and dangerous floods to the Florida Keys, which had seen record rainfall in recent days.
Irma also caused damage to homes, power lines and businesses.
According to the National Hurricane Center, the storm is expected to make landfall as a Category 4 hurricane in the state by Tuesday morning.
“It’s a very, very complex situation,” Kahan said.
“And, we’re still trying to understand the dynamics of what is going to happen next.”
The $50 million project, to be developed by a consortium of local businesses, is scheduled to begin building at the beginning of the year, according to the project description on the Georgia Economic Development Corporation website.
It will be overseen by the DeKalbs County Flood Mitigation and Restoration Corporation, which also owns the Georgia Coastal Commission, a state agency that is in charge of rebuilding the coastal area in the wake of Irma.
The county will have access to a $500 million storm recovery fund, but it is expected that about $300 million will come from the federal government and state governments.
It has received a $200 million grant from the National Flood Insurance Program, which provides disaster relief for flood victims.
The hurricane also has left more than 1,300 homes and businesses without power.
The DeKalbi Community Development Corporation, meanwhile, has received $50,000 in donations from the American Jewish Committee and other Jewish donors.
The group has set aside $500 for the project and is working with other Jewish organizations and partners to find a funding source, said Rabbi Moshe Golan, executive vice president of the DeGaCoCo Jewish Community Development Corp. “We are still looking at the federal and state grants, but we are hopeful that we can find a source of funding,” Golan said.
Kahan stressed that the project is a community-driven effort and the Jewish people of DeGa-County are involved.
“There’s nothing that’s ever happened that was not approved by the community,” he said.
The effort is the latest in a string of Jewish projects aimed at helping people in the region recover from Hurricane Irma, which struck the Caribbean in the early hours of Sept. 20.
The first such storm-related disaster relief effort in Israel was a $50-million project in the Israeli city of Nazareth that began last week and was partially funded by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a pro-Israel lobbying organization.
It was also funded through the Israeli Jewish Federation’s $250,000 donation.
“Hurricane Irma is an opportunity to bring Jews to the forefront of disaster relief, which will serve as a beacon of hope for people struggling with extreme weather,” said Michael Rubin, executive chairman of the Jewish Federations of North America, in a statement announcing the project.
“The disaster relief efforts of Jewish communities across the U, and especially in Israel, are key in helping those in need.”
The Israeli Jewish Agency has also helped to raise funds for disaster relief in Israel.
In 2017, the organization launched a $25-million fund that will be used to build shelter structures for Jewish families in the storm-ravaged regions of South Florida, Florida and Georgia.
In the U and Canada, a $5 million project has been funded by an Israeli philanthropist and an Israeli-Canadian foundation.
The fund will be focused on helping the residents of South Carolina rebuild their homes after Irma hit their communities, and will include emergency supplies, transportation and other assistance, the organizations said in a joint statement.
The South Florida Jewish Community is also planning to spend up to $500 to build homes and other infrastructure to help people rebuild after Hurricane Jose, which hit the region on Aug. 25.
The Florida Jewish Federation will be paying for all the building of the structures and for the relocation of displaced residents, said Golan.
“When you see a hurricane hit and you know that you