On January 12, 2010, at 5 p.m. Haiti (and its neighbor, the Dominican Republic) was hit by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake, the most powerful to strike the Caribbean nation in 200 years. The quake's epicenter was only 10 miles from Port-au-Prince, the country’s capital with a population of about 1 million. Aftershocks as powerful as 5.9 continued to shake the city throughout the night and into Wednesday.

As the poorest and most disease-afflicted country in the Western hemisphere, Haiti is ill-equipped to deal with disasters of this magnitude alone. Reports on casualties were slow to get out of the country due to communication problems but thousands are feared dead and many more injured. It is known that the quake inflicted large-scale damage to Haiti’s infrastructure. Hospitals and health facilities were destroyed, and the capital was thrust into darkness as electricity went out across the city. The presidential palace, numerous government buildings (including those of the UN and the World Bank) were leveled, as were thousands of shanty homes on the hillside of Port-au-Prince.

Officials estimate that the January 12th earthquake in Haiti will cause at least 50,000 causalities make another 300,000 people homeless.   The need in Haiti is critical. 

Currently, the most effective way to assist the aid effort is to donate to funds. 


What Lies in the Rubble of Haiti's Presidential Palace

By: Rabbi Steve Gutow, JCPA President

Rabbi Steve Gutow

We are all captivated by the photo of the damaged Presidential Palace in Haiti. It shows us that the Haitian earthquake was powerful and overwhelming. After all, the seat of power in that impoverished country is in ruins. What must that say about the remainder of Port au Prince? Imagine what it would have done to the people of this country had it been the White House. This photo captures the incomprehensible destruction in Haiti, but below the surface, perhaps the ruin of the Presidential Palace offers a pathway forward with quiet whispers of a redeemed nation.


In response to the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs is encouraging donations to the relief effort.  Officials estimate that the earthquake killed over 50,000 Haitians and left at least another 300,000 homeless.  

JCPA is a leading member of the Jewish Coalition for Disaster Relief (JCDR) which is managed by American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC).  Within that framework, a new Coalition for Haiti Earthquake Response has been created.  The coalition has established a special mailbox to receive funds for the Haitian humanitarian aid efforts.   Other Jewish groups have opened mailboxes as well, including The Jewish Federations of North America and a number of JCPA national member agencies--American Jewish Committee, B'nai B’rith, Jewish Reconstructionist Federation, the Orthodox Union, Union of Reform Judaism, and United Synagogue for Conservative Judaism.  Other Jewish communal organizations participating in the relief effort include American Jewish World Service and MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger.