Two Local Jewish Organizations Receive Awards in the White House for Community Resilience


Yehudis Litvak

Two Los Angeles organizations – Hatzolah Los Angeles and the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles — received awards from the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for their outstanding work in the field of community resilience. Representatives of these organizations, Michoel Bloom of Hatzolah Los Angeles and Ivan Wolkind and Jason Periard of the Jewish Federation, traveled to Washington, D.C., where they received the awards at a ceremony in the White House, on September 13th. Hatzolah Los Angeles was recognized for its work in emergency medical response while the Jewish Federation was recognized for its Community Security Initiative, whose mission is to strengthen the security of the Los Angeles Jewish community.

L-R: Jason Periard, Director Federation CSI program, Ivan Wolkind, Federation COO, Michoel Bloom, Executive Director of Hatzolah

FEMA is increasingly seeking to work together with faith-based communities. Mr. Bloom, Executive Director of Hatzolah Los Angeles, explains that after several big disasters the government authorities found that over 65% of the population seeks help from their faith-based communities. Under the Obama administration, the Department of Homeland Security launched a program called Building Resilience with Diverse Communities (BRDC), which is described on their web site as, “engagement process developed by the Center for Faith-based & Neighborhood Partnerships at the US Department of Homeland Security / FEMA (DHS Center) to help local communities implement the concept of ‘whole community.’” Through BRDC, the DHS Center is reaching out to local faith and community leaders, assesses their current capabilities, and provides training and assistance in disaster preparedness.

At the award ceremony at the White House, FEMA recognized six community organizations from four different locations: Los Angeles, Miami, Albuquerque, NM, Lakewood, NJ, and New Orleans. The Los Angeles and Lakewood representatives were religious Jews. “It was a huge kiddush Hashem,” says Mr. Bloom. “It showed that the Jewish community is very involved [in disaster preparedness], including the Orthodox community. [The government] recognized our work.”

Jay Sanderson, President and CEO of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, said in a press release, “[W]e are honored and humbled to receive recognition for our work today.  We would like to congratulate all other award recipients and honorees, and look forward to continuing our work together in strengthening and protecting the Jewish community and national community at large.”

In Washington, D.C., the awardees visited the FEMA headquarters and met with its representatives. At a question and answer session, community and government representatives discussed future plans for working together and the issues involved in disaster preparedness. The main takeaways, says Mr. Bloom, is that it is very important to work together to prepare for disasters. It takes up to a week for the Federal organizations to respond to a disaster. In the beginning, the responsibility falls on the local leaders. Different local organizations specialize in different things. For example, Hatzolah Los Angeles can set up a mobile hospital in case of an earthquake. The Jewish Federation specializes in security. Other organizations provide mass feeding. It is by pulling their forces together that the community organizations can respond to a disaster effectively.

The award will be of much help to Hatzolah Los Angeles as it aims to expand its operation. Mr. Bloom is hoping that this award will pave the wave for government grants and other crucial assistance.