NECHAMA, rooted in the Jewish value of Tikkun Olam, repairing the world, provides comfort and hope to communities by engaging volunteers in disaster recovery work.
NECHAMA – Jewish Response to Disaster, is the only Jewish organization to offer sustained direct services in the US following the onset of a hurricane, tornado, flood, or other natural disaster. Steve Lear of Minneapolis founded the organization following the Great Flood of 1993 when both the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers flooded over a period of 7 months, leading to 32 deaths, and over $15 billion in damage. Lear donated funds to the recovery but wished to do more, so he recruited three friends, a truck, some tools, and headed south to Iowa.
That first trip was the beginning of an organization now known as NECHAMA (nechama means “to comfort” in Hebrew). NECHAMA’s programs are direct and effective ways for communities to prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters. Our programs aim to provide direct disaster assistance, training, and other support so that affected individuals, families, and small businesses can respond more effectively, saving precious time and money. NECHAMA is inclusive, welcoming volunteers of all faiths and providing assistance to disaster survivors regardless of religious affiliation. Our work provides disaster survivors with critical comfort and hope.
NECHAMA is the Jewish disaster relief organization in the United States. Our work throughout the country is based on seven core Jewish values.
1. Mipnei Darchei Shalom – Building Relationships – מפני דרכי שלום
The Talmud teaches that the Jewish community is obligated, not only to help and care for Jews, but to help and care for everyone. The scholar Maimonadies took this teaching one step further and taught that it is in fact a commandment to come to the aid of the non-Jewish community. Wherever there is a need, NECHAMA provides support, whether it’s a Jewish community or not. We make no distinction when we respond to meet urgent humanitarian needs on behalf of the greater Jewish community.
2. Gemilut Chasadim – Acts of Lovingkindness – גמילות חסדים
Jewish tradition has long emphasised the importance of gemilut chasadim, doing voluntary acts of lovingkindness or service for others. The collection of proverbs known as the Ethics of the Fathers teaches that “the world rests upon three things: Torah, prayer, and gemilut hasadim/acts of lovingkindness.” When we respond to a disaster as NECHAMA, we are truly performing acts of lovingkindness and in so doing, bring God’s presence into the world.
3. Tzedekah – Charity/Justice – צדקה
The root of the Hebrew word tzekekah means justice and is required of each of us. The Jewish tradition requires that we each share what we have with those who have less. The community is obligated to ensure that everyone has food, clothing, and shelter. We are asked to give generously not only of our money, but also of our time and talent to make the world better. When NECHAMA assists a family, we are helping to fulfill the vital commandment found in the Torah: justice, justice you shall pursue!”
4. Ahavat Orchim – Love The Stranger – אהבת אורחים
The most repeated commandment in the Torah is to care for the poor, the widow, and the stranger — to love and care for those who are the most vulnerable. When we work with NECHAMA to rebuild the home of someone who was once a stranger, that person becomes part of our lives and we embody what the Torah teaches when it commands us to care for the poor, the widow, and the stranger.
5. Lo Ta’Amod – Don’t Stand Idly By – לא תעמוד
We are commanded “not stand idly by the blood of our neighbor.” The Talmud interpreted this verse as an obligation to come to the aid of others. Even if there is a risk to our own lives, we must respond to aid another. For us at NECHAMA, we come to the aid of others in distress; we do not stand idly by — rather we respond rapidly and with passion to assist our neighbors in need.
6. Rachamim – Compassion – רחמים
The Talmud teaches that one of the most vital of Jewish values is rachamim, compassion – a caring concern for others. At NECHAMA, we approach each of our interactions with our clients, our coworkers, and community members with rachamim, with genuine compassion and a caring concern for others.
7. Tikkun Olam – Repairing The World – תיקון עולם
We don’t have to look beyond the morning headlines or the evening news to see the brokenness in our world. The Jewish answer to that brokenness has always been action – to do what we can to repair it. When NECHAMA rebuilds a home, we are not just repairing a home, we are repairing the world.
- Stephen Matloff – President
Los Angeles, CA
- Tracy Figueroa – Treasurer/Secretary
New York, NY
- Rabbi Beau Shapiro
Los Angeles, CA
- Jeremy Wolf
Los Angeles, CA
- Kyle Smith
- Wendy Morris
NECHAMA is registered with the IRS as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. All contributions are tax deductible.
Tax ID # 41-1998750