Jews of Oklahoma City Volunteer in Relief Effort, Help Raise Funds

The small Jewish community of Oklahoma City, although physically intact, was left devastated by last week’s bombing of a federal building there that killed at least 86 people.

“We’re community of only 2,500 in a metropolitan area of just under 1 million, but we very tightly connected and we are all feeling the pain from this,” said Edie Roodman, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Oklahoma City.

The federation has organized a national relief effort to help the victims of the bombing. Roodman called the response to this appeal “just overwhelming.”

By the time she reached her office at 11 a.m. the day of the bombing, Roodman said, she had received 50 messages from Jewish federations across the country offering assistance. The bomb went off shortly after 9 a.m. local time.

“Federation have called with the warmest support. It’s been a real outpouring of well wishes and concern,” Roodman said.

“It really makes a difference here. We’re such a small Jewish community that that kind of bolstering up is really important,” she added.

No Jews were killed in the explosion or have been counted among the missing.

Rabbi David Packman of Oklahoma City’s Temple B’nai Israel reported that one member of his Reform congregation who worked in a neighboring building suffered an injury from falling debris. She was released from a hospital.

Packman, whose synagogue is one of two in the area, spoke at the memorial service for the victims Sunday, along with President Clinton, the Rev. Billy Graham and other dignitaries.

In his address, Packman invoked a metaphor of Jerusalem in saying that Oklahoma City would rebuild itself to its former glory.

He also read some passages from the Book of Lamentations that express ways of finding hope after despair.

In Oklahoma City, Jews have been among those volunteering to feed the relief workers, police and others who are working at the building site.

Roodman organized the volunteer effort herself, but said that she has a list of 20 more people who are willing to coordinate the more than 75 volunteers.

“We have been bringing food, giving blood and just doing everything we can,” said Packman.

Both Jews and non-Jews have called the Jewish federation, wanting to volunteer, Roodman said.

“The needs are still very fluid,” Roodman said, adding that the volunteers will continue to help in whatever capacity will be necessary in the upcoming weeks.

“We don’t know what will be needed of us tomorrow,” she said.

Roodman said the Jewish community has discussed helping to rebuild the YMCA Day Care Center that was directly across the street from the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.

No children were killed there, but “many were hurt. They lost everything, and we’d like to help them rebuild,” Roodman said.

Packman said the community hopes to contribute $55,000 to help rebuild the downtown area in the name of the Jewish community, and has started the Explosion Relief Fund for that purpose.

But the Jews in Oklahoma City have not been the only ones to offer help.

In Tulsa, Oklahoma City’s sister city, the Jewish community has offered direct assistance.

Contribution to help rebuild in Oklahoma City can be sent to the Explosion Relief Fund, c/o the Jewish Federation of Greater Oklahoma City, 710 West Wilshire, Suite C, Oklahoma City, Okla. 731156.

B’nai B’rith International has also set up a fund for the victims. The group has so far collected $64,000. Donations can be sent to the B’nai B’rith Disaster Relief Fund, 1640 Rhode Island Ave., N.W., Washington D.C. 20036.

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