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JDRC Service Learning- Rebuild Oklahoma!



EVENT DATE: Jan 05, 2014


This year, the JDRC will base our core service-learning alternative college break programs in Oklahoma City to help rebuild after the May 2013 tornadoes that killed more than thirty people and destroyed over one-thousand houses in their paths.

In the wake of the two year anniversary of the Joplin, MO tornado of May 2011, we watched in horror as a devastating tornado tore through the suburbs of Oklahoma City. The tornado struck the town of Newcastle and traveled 10 miles to Moore, a populous suburb of Oklahoma City, leveling everything in its path. The tornado was a Category EF-5 tornado on the Enhanced Fujita scale, which measures tornado strength on a scale of 0 to 5. This was the largest and deadliest single tornado since Joplin (which claimed 161 lives in 2011). According to the latest reports, the two-mile wide tornado claimed at least 24 lives, and injured scores more. Thousands of homes were destroyed or damaged. Two weeks later, multiple tornados tore through the same area, destroying homes and taking additional lives. To view footage of the first of these devastating tornadoes, click here.

Partnering with the Oklahoma Disaster Recovery Project– the official recovery group formed by the Oklahoma VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster), the JDRC will join the local volunteer effort as the community enters a critical period transitioning between emergency response and long term recovery. While the initial media attention brought hordes of volunteers and contributions, Oklahoma has quickly fallen out of the spotlight such that volunteer numbers and donations are dwindling. At this crucial moment in time, the JDRC is in the process of mobilizing over one hundred student volunteers from twelve different Hillels across the nation to participate in week-long service learning trips to Oklahoma during college winter and spring breaks.


Our intensive weeklong service-learning trips in Oklahoma will integrate physical labor with Jewish learning, while building individuals’ Jewish identities and connections between communities and within communities. Months before the trip, the JDRC staff will work with Hillel student leaders and staff to organize orientations for participants and to educate them on the impact of the storm system and the community they will be serving. Upon arriving in Oklahoma, students will meet with community members who will lead them on a survey of the tornado damage and provide a briefing on community needs. From Monday through Friday, students will assist in various stages of rebuilding, including but not limited to demolishing homes that need to be rebuilt from ground up, installing sheetrock, flooring, mudding and taping, painting, landscaping and final touch ups.


Throughout the week, participants will engage their peers in organic and guided reflections and JDRC staff lead the students in a curriculum focused on tikkun olam and Jewish social action. The JDRC arranges dinner discussions with tornado survivors and invites experts to discuss personal experiences, stages of disaster recovery and how one person can make a difference.  Over the weekend, the JDRC partners with the local Jewish community to provide a unique Shabbat experience for the students. This year, we are partnering with the local Oklahoma University Hillelduring our stay and will have a special Shabbat among peers. In January, the JDRC will host a unique interfaith trip of Muslim and Jewish students to engage in service and dialogue.


The Impact:

Through past experience, we believe that six months to two years after a natural disaster is the best time for “unskilled” volunteer groups to make a substantial contribution to recovery work. At this time, the homeowners’ needs have been assessed and recorded, the Long Term Recovery Committees have been formed to organize combined relief efforts on the ground, and volunteer help is requested and is in high demand by the affected communities. The volunteers are provided with substantial, meaningful and safe work, while rebuilding homes for the uninsured or under-insured homeowners affected by the storm. This year, JDRC volunteers will assist in the rebuilding of homes and help families get back on their feet in the six counties declared disaster zones in Oklahoma. Together, we will contribute approximately 4,000 hours of service, valued by FEMA at $20.00 per hour, saving homeowners $80,000 in building costs.


The communities of Greater Oklahoma City will continue to need physical, financial and emotional support during their long-term recovery efforts. The Jewish Disaster Response Corps is dedicated to helping the communities in Oklahoma City during this process. We are accepting donations on this site and we ensure that they will be designated for the relief and rebuilding efforts in Oklahoma. Please help us fulfill the Jewish value of Tikkun Olam (repairing the world) through our direct service to the communities in need.


2014 Alternative Break Participating Schools and Dates

University of Rhode Island Hillel- January 5-12, 2014

San Francisco Hillel- January 5-12, 2014

University of Maryland Hillel- January 12-19, 2014

NYU Bridges: Muslim-Jewish Interfaith Dialogue- January 19, 2014

Temple University Hillel- March 2-9, 2014

Lester & Jewell Morris Hillel at Michigan State – March 2-9, 2014

Syracuse University Hillel- March 9-16, 2014

Penn State Hillel- March 9-16, 2014

University of Wisconsin Hillel- March 16-23, 2014

Rutgers University Hillel- March 16-23, 2014

Metro Chicago Hillel- March 23-30, 2014

UCLA Hillel- March 23-30, 2014





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