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Jewish group honored in Indonesia

NEW YORK, Jan. 24 (JTA) — Indonesian officials have honored the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee for its tsunami relief efforts. The awards were given to JDC by the mayor of Banda Aceh and a regional official in a ceremony Monday. The JDC has spent $2 million so far for victims of the December 2004 tsunami in Indonesia, a mostly Muslim country that was hardest hit by the tidal wave that killed more than 200,000 people. Michael Schneider, the JDC’s honorary executive vice president, told JTA by telephone from Indonesia. that the JDC has focused its efforts on upgrading refugee camps: providing mattresses, covered playgrounds, school uniforms and equipment, and electricity for 20,000 people. The group also has worked on increasing and improving the water supply, having drilled to create five deep-water wells. Some 60,000 people have their water provided by JDC. The group is building a model village of 100 houses, which it hopes will serve as a prototype when the government decides to build new housing. So far, 15 houses have been built, Schneider said. “We are in Indonesia first and foremost to help people who suffered from the tsunami, but it’s also an opportunity to build bridges of friendship and respect between Muslims and Jews,” Schneider said. The JDC has built a mosque to serve the refugees as a “symbol of interreligious friendship,” he said. The JDC raised $18 million for tsunami relief through its emergency relief mailbox. In addition to Indonesia, the JDC is also working on relief and development efforts in Sri Lanka, India and Thailand. The group’s efforts have been conducted with a local partner group, the Dwiyuna Jaya Foundation, which has spent $3 million to date.