Jewish Federations of North America, in partnership with Milwaukee Jewish Federation and other federations, has launched an earthquake relief fund to provide humanitarian aid and to support recovery efforts in Turkey and Syria.
Swaths of the two nations were devastated by earthquakes that reached a magnitude of 7.8 on Feb. 6, 2023. The death count soared daily in the aftermath, reaching the tens of thousands by Chronicle press time.
Federation overseas partners “are on the ground in Turkey to assess the needs and determine how to be best positioned to help,” according to JFNA.
“We mourn the tragic loss of life brought by this disaster and send our hopes and prayers for all those who have been injured,” said Jewish Federations of North America Board Chair Julie Platt. “We remain in close contact with our disaster relief partners on the ground and are mobilizing our communities to raise funds to support their life-giving work.”
JFNA reports that the Federation system has “a long and proud history of response to global crises, aiding vulnerable Jewish populations and individuals of all faiths and backgrounds in the hardest-hit places.” Funds have supported hundreds of relief efforts in the aftermath of major disasters, from California wildfires to tsunamis in Asia, to hurricanes and flooding in the Gulf to tornadoes in the Midwest.
“Our Jewish values of tikkun olam guide us day-in and day-out to extend our hands to those in need, and Jewish federations pledge to carry out this mandate with pride and dignity,” Platt said.
To donate to the JFNA earthquake relief fund, visit bit.ly/JFNA-Earthquake.
Israel is sending aid to Turkey and Syria, too. Israel is sending medication, tents and other supplies to Syria, its neighbor that it considers a hostile state, according to Hebrew language media. The Israeli military was also sending rescue teams to both countries, the Israeli embassy in the Turkish capital Ankara told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. That embassy was only recently formally re-established after years of diplomatic tensions.
“At the request of the Turkish government, I have instructed all authorities to make immediate preparations to provide medical, and search and rescue assistance. The Foreign and Defence ministers have already been in contact with their counterparts and we will – in the coming hours – agree on the dispatching of a delegation as soon as possible,” Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said in a statement on Twitter, early in the crisis.
The quake, whose epicenter was in the eastern Turkish province of Kahramanmaras, was felt throughout the region, as far as Israel. It was the highest magnitude the country has experienced in nearly a century.
Antakya, a city in southeastern Turkey at the Syrian border, was hit particularly hard. When the JTA visited the city last year, 14 Jews remained in a community that has stood for centuries, stretching back to the days of the Seleucid Empire. The city’s namesake, Antiochus, was the villain of the Hanukkah story.
Three members of the largely elderly community were trapped by rubble after their apartment building collapsed on Monday, but they were rescued, a spokesperson for the Turkish Jewish community told JTA.
The nearby city of Adana, which has a Jewish community of fewer than a dozen people, was also badly hit by the quake, but none of the local Jews are reported missing or injured.
The overwhelming majority of Turkey’s Jews live on the western side of the country, largely in Istanbul, with a smaller community in Izmir. Both cities were unaffected by the quake.
Turkey has experienced deadly earthquakes before. In 1999, during the infamous Izmit Earthquake, the ground shook for under 40 seconds but nearly 20,000 people died. That disaster registered a 7.6 compared to Monday’s 7.8.
Other Israeli groups, including United Hatzalah of Israel; MASHAV, Israel’s national aid agency; the nonprofit SmartAid; the NGO IsraAID; and the Magen David Adom organization also mobilized teams to travel to Turkey.