The Birmingham Jewish community has launched a coordinated effort to assist those displaced by Hurricane Katrina. The community's congregations, Birmingham Jewish Federation, N.E. Miles Jewish Day School, Levite Jewish Community Center and Collat Jewish Family Services have banded together to cooperate in the effort.

The Federation is hoping that through its fund, as well as other relief efforts, the Birmingham Jewish community will contribute $1 million to the effort.

Esther Schuster, executive director of CJFS, said her agency is coordinating efforts for members of the New Orleans Jewish community who are in the area, or looking to come to the area. There are already some families staying with local relatives, or in hotels. The agency will assist with jobs, housing, medical care, counseling, schooling and other needs. A support group will enable New Orleanians to meet and talk with each other, the time and place has not been set yet.

She said that housing will likely be an issue. Many have volunteered their homes, but long-term solutions are also needed. Anyone who has a carriage house or apartment that can be rented out or volunteered is urged to contact the agency.

Even if people from New Orleans are in town but do not need any assistance, Schuster said CJFS should still be contacted, to provide a proper welcome to the community, and so the agency can help if any future needs arise.

She added that non-Jews have already been helped by the agency, especially through the JCFS Food Pantry. Families with limited financial means who find themselves inundated by relatives from the disaster area often find themselves unable to provide.

CJFS will work with Birmingham's community-wide response as well.

The Birmingham Jewish Federation will be open on Labor Day from 9 a.m. to noon to accept monetary donations. Gifts may be made by check, in stock or by credit card. The Federation's email system is still down, but calls may be made to (205) 803-1513. Those making credit card contributions may leave a voicemail with the name, card number and amount.

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