Archive for : Haiti

Sandy Relief Interview: Rami Matan Even-Esh, AKA: Kosha Dillz

beverlydillzVolunteer: Kosha Dillz

Who he is:  Israeli-American Jewish hip hop artist

Rami Matan Even-Esh, better known by his stage name Kosha Dillz, is an Israeli-American rapper who is no stranger to the East Coast. Although he spent time in both Israel and the U.S. while growing up, Kosha was born in Perth Amboy and has close ties to the Jersey community.

We’re very excited to have had the opportunity to speak with Kosha, and learn more about his experiences during and after Hurricane Sandy hit his hometown.

Why did you decide to volunteer after Sandy?

I was at my family’s home in Manasquan, NJ getting ready to head back to LA when the storm arrived on the East Coast. My town was hit pretty hard and we ended up without power for eleven days. It was a crazy experience because on the one hand it was weird to think that it should take a natural disaster to bring a community together, but on the other hand it was incredible to see the way everyone was so eager to help.

It felt very natural for me to volunteer in Jersey after the Hurricane hit. I felt a very personal connection to the destruction, not only because the storm literally hit close to home, but because I saw first hand the way many of my friends and neighbors were affected, and I knew I of course wanted to help in any way I could.

What did you do in the days following the storm?

I became very involved in the cleanup efforts. I found many different activities to participate in; one day I’d be working in demolition and gutting a ruined house, and the next I’d be making sandwiches and coffee for people in my neighborhood. I also started bringing my dog with me to volunteer. People loved petting him and taking pictures with him, it was nice to be able to bring a little cheer to a neighborhood that was going through something really rough. Cheer is important at a time like this.

Kosha Dillz Sandy Storify

Check out Kosha Dillz’ Sandy Storify here.

How did you respond to your fans that reached out to help?

I’m fortunate to have a great fan base that follows me on social media. It was amazing to be able to tweet, Facebook, or Instagram something about a particular area needing help, and then being able to see that tweet or post spread throughout my fan-base, to their friends, to friends of friends, to people not just in our neighborhood but from all over, all getting involved and offering time, services, or money to help.

Has your volunteer work had an impact on your life or music?

Going through Sandy and getting involved in the recovery efforts has definitely influenced both my life and music. I feel that this experience has really caused a lot of self-reflection. You start to think about what is most important to you, and in my case I know that giving has always been a priority.

Back when the earthquake hit Haiti for example, we did a tour to raise money for relief efforts, and that was one of my favorite experiences. I also recently did a show in Brooklyn; we passed around a bucket for Sandy donations, and people gave what they could, every little bit helps.

Anytime I can use my music to give back definitely represents some of the most fulfilling times in my life; I feel the best when I have the chance to make a meaningful impact, and this most recent experience with the storm has re-sparked that desire within me.

What do you most want to share about your experience?

My immediate takeaway was that getting involved in both donating money and time were equally meaningful. It’s great to be able to get involved in the physical work (making sandwiches, cleaning out houses) and I loved doing it, but I think it’s also important to note that giving monetary donations, or getting involved in other ways in the future is important as well. People will continue to need many things after the initial response has died down, so I think it’s important to follow Facebook and Twitter feeds of smaller groups, like the Occupy movement, for ways to stay updated and involved.

I’d also really like to emphasize that the point of volunteering is not to be recognized or thanked, but to help in a meaningful way. That is what I tried to do and what I hope to encourage others to continue to do.

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A huge thanks to Kosha Dillz for taking the time to speak with us about his experiences.

Be sure to check out his songs, and consider donating to his Kickstarter to support the upcoming documentary “Kosha Dillz is Everywhere.” 

 

Remembering Haiti

Two years ago on this day, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake took the lives of over 300,000 Haitians, displacing thousands and thousands more, and causing vast amounts of damage to the region. Like many natural disasters and world-events, the earthquake may have happened two years ago, but its impact is still felt today. Today, one and a half million people are still displaced, 550,000 people continue to live in camps, and the number of orphans nearly doubled. Thanks to the support of devoted volunteers, NGOs and service-workers who rushed down, some progress has been made. According to the The Huffington Post, 50% of the debris has been removed and 20% has been recycled. Nearly 369,000 people have been provided access to clean water, 2.4 million with health services and hygiene education, and 3 million with cholera treatment prevention. But the work is far from done.

As global citizens – and as Jews – we are responsible for helping to alleviate each others’ suffering. Below are some ways you can still give your time and effort to help Haiti in its efforts to rebuild:

Volunteer, Support & Learn

  • AJWS: AJWS’ long-standing partnerships in the region made it possible for them to respond within 48 hours of the earthquake.  Today, AJWS funds 40 extraordinary organizations in Haiti and is a leader in the U.S.-based movement for Haitian-led redevelopment.
  • JDC’s Inside Haiti: Volunteer with JDC in the fields of medical assistance, educational support and humanitarian relief.
  • Tevel B’tzedek’s Haiti Program: The IsraAID – Tevel b’Tzedek delegation began its work in Haiti one month after the quake. They’ve been implementing community development techniques such as women and youth groups and informal education in three villages in the Leogan district ever since.
  • Habitat for Humanity: Habitat’s commitment to Haiti dates back 27 years before the 2010 earthquake. Today, they continue to be a leading organization in helping to rebuild Haiti.
  • Aid Still Required:  “Just because it left the headlines, doesn’t mean it left the planet.” Aid Still Required has helped support Haiti’s growth to self-sufficiency, including women’s empowerment efforts, child services, and reforestation. Use hashtag #AidStillRequired to spread the word about Haiti.
  • American Red Cross: Two years after the Haiti earthquake, the American Red Cross is helping Haitian people rebuild their homes and their lives and improving communities with health, water and sanitation projects.
  • On1Foot.org: Interested in hosting a text study on disaster relief in general? Check out this resource for texts which explore a moral obligation to respond to humanitarian crises.

 

Weekly Torah: Parshat Tetzaveh 5770

This post is part of a weekly series of Torah commentaries presented by the American Jewish World Service. It was contributed by Jimmy Taber.

On the surface, the international community’s response to the devastation wrought by the 2010 earthquake in Haiti appears to have been exceedingly successful. Americans donated over $1 billion to organizations that quickly funneled food, water and other basic necessities into the affected areas. ((Haiti Earthquake: One Year Later – Donor Survey Results.” Charity Navigator.)) According to a survey by Charity Navigator, the majority of donors approved of the way their money was spent in Haiti: sixty percent of respondents said that they were either “very confident” or “somewhat confident” in how charities spent the funds. ((Ibid.))

Despite the satisfaction from those offering assistance, a divide has developed between the providers of aid and the recipients. A recent Washington Post article reported:

“As U.S. officials, donor nations and international aid contractors applaud their efforts—all the latrines, tents and immunizations—the recipients of this unprecedented assistance are weary at the lack of visible progress and doubtful that the billions of dollars promised will make their lives better.” ((Booth, William. “After Massive Aid, Haitians Feel Stuck in Poverty.” The Washington Post, 11 January 2011.))

How can the perception of success diverge so significantly between donors and recipients? What is the source of this disconnect between aims and outcomes?
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J-Teen Leadership Volunteers for Haiti

American anthropologist, Margaret Mead, is known for her famous saying, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.” The same thing could be said about teenagers.

Since 2005 J-Teen Leadership has been empowering Jewish teens in Westchester, New York to engage with Jewish values and build leadership skills while giving back to their community (and the wider world) through service.

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Weekly Torah: Parshat Va’etchanan 5770

This post is part of a weekly series of Torah commentaries presented by the American Jewish World Service. It was contributed by Rabbi Rachel Kahn-Troster.

What can our love of God teach us about our relationships with other people? Parshat Va’etchanan recalls the details of the covenant between God and Israel at Sinai, a model for the deep, committed relationship that is ideal for connecting to our fellow human beings. This model is especially critical when thinking about finding common ground for social change.

The parshah contains much of the core prayer of Jewish belief, the Shema. As part of the declaration of Israel’s unique relationship with God alone, we are reminded that we must love God with “all of our hearts and all of our souls and all of our might.” ((Dvarim 6:5.)) This details an all-encompassing commitment grounding our relationship with God both in emotion and devotion.

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Report from the Field: A final dispatch from Haiti

Micha Odenheimer, founding director of Tevel b’Tzedek, is blogging from Haiti this week for Repair the World. For the past two months, nine volunteers from Tevel b’Tzedek have been working to support the communities devestated by the January 12 earthquake, running the only school in the Petitionville refugee camp. Read the previous post here and check back tomorrow for more.

Tevel b’Tzedek works in teams. Although there are volunteer organizations that believe that it is best to send one person at a time into the field to work in local organizations, and I understand and respect their reasoning, we have a different approach—perhaps influenced by the Israeli/Jewish experience. We think that teamwork is essential, that building community among the volunteers (as well, of course, within the target population) is a crucial party of the volunteering experience. Israelis and Jews as well know how to create community—and how to draw strength from what community has to offer.
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Report from the Field: Making the Next Move in Haiti

Micha Odenheimer, founding director of Tevel b’Tzedek, is blogging from Haiti this week for Repair the World. For the past two months, nine volunteers from Tevel b’Tzedek have been working to support the communities devestated by the January 12 earthquake, running the only school in the Petitionville refugee camp. Read the previous post here and check back tomorrow for more.

On the road back from Jacmel to Port au Prince, I talk to Ted, a young man we brought along to translate as we visited rural villages and the earthquake affected area outside the capital city in order to figure out what our next move in Haiti should be. Ted is a Haitian immigrant to the United States—he had a green card, but no citizenship, and moved back to Haiti several months before the earthquake after some trouble with the law.
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Report from the Field: More from Haiti

Micha Odenheimer, founding director of Tevel b’Tzedek, is blogging from Haiti this week for Repair the World. For the past two months, nine volunteers from Tevel b’Tzedek have been working to support the communities devestated by the January 12 earthquake, running the only school in the Petitionville refugee camp. Read the previous post here and check back tomorrow for more.

The streets of Port au Prince are far emptier than on any “normal” day—there’s a gas shortage, so buying gas means a wait of hours at a gas station, or buying “loose” gallons on the black market for 12 dollars and fifty cents. Still, on the way to a meeting, traffic is slow enough to be startled and delighted by the names the Haitians give their businesses: The Shekhina Food Shop, Adonai hardware and utensils, the El Shaddai School. Biblical language—and especially, apparently, sundry and profound varieties of Hebrew divine names—are burned into Haiti’s consciousness. The Biblical story of liberation from slavery resonates here. I wonder how it feels for my secular Israelis compatriots to see their own religious language—both strange and familiar to them writ large on sign boards in a place so far from home.
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