The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

May 2011 Joplin tornado

May 18, 2013

Jewish Disaster Response Corps

“Tikkun olam” is Hebrew for “repairing the world,” and the concept — of service to others, of helping those in need — is prevalent in Judaism.

Enter the Jewish Disaster Response Corps, which sends young Jewish people into the disaster-stricken areas of the country to provide relief and assistance.

“It’s one of the highest values in Judaism, to repair the world, and disaster relief fits in perfectly with that,” said Adina Remz, executive director of the New York-based organization. “As a Jewish person, this is something we value and we should be doing.”

About 90 students from eight universities across the country volunteered in Joplin earlier this year over the course of six weeklong trips sponsored by the corps, with many of those students giving up their spring break in March to attend, said Remz, 25. Two trips were interfaith events, bringing together both Jewish and Muslim students.

Students worked with Rebuild Joplin, tackling whatever construction projects were on the docket for the day. They also held dinners for the homeowners and met with local volunteers as well as the local Jewish community, Remz said.

“Initially these students come in and they’re not sure (of their impact) — They don’t see a house being built start to finish, but when they meet the homeowners ... they realize you really are getting these homeowners one step closer to getting a home when they really have lost everything,” she said.

The trips were not only focused on service, but they were also a learning experience, Remz said. Students were taken through the heart of the devastated area and learned about the tornado and the Joplin community.

Julia Blanchette said she won’t forget her tour of the tornado’s path. More than a year after the storm, lingering evidence of its destruction “was like nothing I’d ever seen before,” she said.

Blanchette, a 21-year-old nursing student at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, spent a week in Joplin in January on one of the trips with nine classmates from her school’s hillel, or Jewish campus organization. She said she had done neither construction work nor disaster relief before, but she jumped right in.

The group was placed at a Rebuild Joplin house and plastered walls, put in flooring and painted. Blanchette said they also met with locals to swap stories and share meals.

“Myself, I didn’t feel like I was doing that much by painting a wall, but just by talking to them (Rebuild Joplin clients) and seeing how appreciative they were, I did feel like I was making a difference,” she said. “I was putting myself out there, getting out of my comfort zone, and I just had so much fulfillment because of the people I met and just seeing how much of an impact we made as a group.”

Remz said no additional Joplin trips are currently scheduled, but she doesn’t rule out returning in the future.

“It’s definitely something I’m thinking about,” she said. “We felt that Joplin and the community members really touched us in a way that will stay with us forever.”


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May 2011 Joplin tornado
  • Local new-home construction catches up to previous pace

    After a slow start early in this fiscal year for Joplin, the construction of new houses has resumed at the pace that existed in fiscal year 2013, when permits for new houses averaged more than 16 per month. Since November, the beginning of Joplin’s fiscal year, permits for 118 houses have been issued for a total cost of $12.8 million. The average value has been about $108,000.

    June 11, 2014

  • 052212 unity walk1_72.jpg SLIDESHOW: One year later, One day of unity, updated Photos from a day of events commemorating the May 22, 2011 tornado anniversary

    May 22, 2012 1 Photo

  • 060314 Farmers rebuild 1_72.jpg Farmers Insurance writes manual based on experience from Joplin disaster recovery

    Joplin’s housing recovery from the 2011 tornado is one for the books. Jeff Dailey, CEO of Farmers Insurance, announced Tuesday that not only will Farmers Insurance stick with Rebuild Joplin to repair and replace the homes left on the local group’s waiting list, but the company also will kick off a similar recovery effort today for the city of Sea Bright, New Jersey, based on a book it has written to expedite disaster recovery that is based on its experience in Joplin.

    June 3, 2014 2 Photos

  • r052214butterflygarden.jpg New park feature opens on tornado anniversary to encourage healing

    Cunningham Park has become an emotional place for Pamela Praytor. The name of her son, Christopher Lucas, is engraved on a monument that stands in the park in memory of the 161 people who were killed in the May 2011 tornado. “Even though I cry when I come, it’s OK,” she said. “It’s part of the healing.”

    May 22, 2014 2 Photos

  • r051214greenbldgs3.jpg Home, business cited as examples of energy efficiency, strength

    Ramona and Charles “Hugh’’ Shields were not the least bit reluctant on Monday to open their new house in the tornado zone to a bunch of strangers who had a lot of questions. “I used to live in a house where I had to wear two pairs of socks in the winter to keep my feet warm — not anymore,’’ said Ramona Shields. “This house is nice and warm in the winter, and nice and cool in the summer.’’

    May 12, 2014 2 Photos

  • Mercy Health System to receive $23 million FEMA grant

    The Federal Emergency Management Agency will provide Mercy Health System of Joplin with $23 million in public assistance funding by the end of the year. The disaster relief was announced Friday by U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill.

    April 25, 2014

  • Respond With Love flower.jpg Joplin pays it forward with flowers; residents asked to return bulbs ‘fostered’ for other towns

    Suzan Morang’s front yard bloomed brightly last year from a colorful array of bulbs that she will happily pass on to someone else this year. Morang, 1207 Xenia Court, is a participant in America Responds With Love, a national nonprofit organization that distributes bulbs to disaster-stricken cities.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Creator of Joplin-based ‘Dear World’ exhibit features Boston bombing victims in new work

    The messages written on the skin of some Boston Marathon victims may be different, but Joplin residents will recognize the handwriting. Robert X. Fogarty, the creator of the “Dear World: From Joplin with Love” exhibit, took his signature style of photography and inspiration to Boston. Fogarty traveled to Joplin in 2011 and took pictures of community members with inspirational messages written on their bodies in black ink.

    April 21, 2014

  • r041414wildwood.jpg Opening of nursing home another recovery milestone

    Gladys Dutton has done a lot of things in her life, but Monday’s dedication of the Communities at Wildwood Ranch nursing home marked a first. “I’ve never cut a ribbon before,” she said. “I hope I do a good job.” Dutton was one of four residents to participate in the opening of the $8.5 million nursing center that eventually will be home to 120 people.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • Joplin Redevelopment Corp. preparing for first property sale

    The first sale of property from the Joplin Redevelopment Corp. to Wallace Bajjali Development Partners is scheduled for May 16. The city staff will be working to prepare for that sale, it was discussed on Tuesday at a meeting of the JRC.

    April 9, 2014

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