Tornado Disaster: Update on the Jewish Community in Joplin & How You Can Help

PHOTO CREDIT: Columbia Tribune

The devastation from Sunday night’s tornadoes in Joplin, MO and Reading, KS is heart-breaking and incomprehensible. Since I live just a few hours north of Joplin, the tragedy is even more palpable.

I desperately want to help.

And I know you do, too.

Here are some ways you can help right now.

  • The Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City, which is working to provide emergency relief funding to victims in Joplin, MO and Reading, KS, is accepting secure online donations here.
  • You can also make secure online donations for disaster relief through Heart of Missouri United Way. (Thanks, Debbie!) Text JOPLIN to 864833 to donate $10 to disaster relief efforts.
  • Of course, the Red Cross and Salvation Army are on the ground, providing disaster relief. Text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation to the Red Cross, or the word JOPLIN to 80888 to make a $10 donation to the Salvation Army.

In addition, I want to share with you what I have been able to learn about the Jewish community in Joplin.

There is one synagogue in Joplin, United Hebrew Congregation, which is home to about three dozen Jewish families. I spoke this afternoon with the UHC’s student rabbi, Ariel Boxman, who serves the community twice a month for Shabbat services. Ariel is on her way to Joplin now and will be there tomorrow through Monday.

I will know more when I speak with Ariel again, but here is what she was able to tell me about the current situation for the Jewish community in Joplin:

  • The synagogue is currently standing, but an assessment of structural and internal damage has not yet been conducted.
  • Contact has been made with all but two of the UHC congregants. G-d willing, the fact that those members are out of contact is simply due to phone lines being down and nothing more untoward.
  • Currently, there have been no reported fatalities within the Jewish community.
  • Many of the UHC congregants lived in the area of Joplin that suffered the worst damage. The homes of the President of the synagogue, many board members, and a number of congregants were completely destroyed. These families are now staying in temporary shelters and area motels, which have opened their doors to survivors.
  • The synagogue is working quickly to become a center for distribution of supplies to those within – and beyond – the UHC community. This initiative is being called Yesh Tikvah – There is Hope!
  • If you personally know someone in Joplin and haven’t been able to reach them, you can report them as missing at (417) 659-5464. (Thank you, Dana.)

While the needs in Joplin are unfathomable, I want to harness the amazing generosity (and couponing skills!) of Kosher on a Budget readers. The following is my tentative plan, so please stay tuned for more complete information.

I will be coordinating a Stockpile Donation Drive to help UHC stock its Yesh Tikvah distribution center.

My current plan is to gather donations and drive them down personally to Joplin in mid to late-June. A month from now, the needs will be just as urgent, but the media and national attention will have moved on.

Let’s not let the Joplin survivors fade from our hearts.

I am working as fast as I can on developing a plan for local drop-offs and out-of-town shipments. For now, please don’t bring/send anything to my house.

Instead, take a look at your stockpile and pay close attention to all those freebies at stores like CVS and Target. While I will update you in the next few days with a precise list of needed supplies, the most urgent needs will no doubt include:

  • Baby supplies – diapers, wipes, formula (especially the ready-made bottles)
  • Personal care items – shampoo, soap, toothbrushes and toothpaste
  • First aid supplies – OTC medications, bandaids, ointments
  • Non-perishable food items – Canned goods, boxes of cereal, bags of rice and pasta, etc.

If you work in pediatrics and have access to formula samples, please contact me directly. I would love to be able to contact your rep to see about getting a corporate-level donation. Also, if you work in retail or manufacturing and think your company would be interested in donating to Yesh Tikvah, please contact me.

Again, for now, please consider donating if you are able to one of the above organizations. Or, if you are interested in making a donation directly to Joplin’s Jewish community, you can do so via the URJ (Union for Reform Judaism)’s Disaster Relief Fund.

Please specify that your donation is for Joplin, and the funds will be sent directly to Ariel Boxman to use in meeting the immediate needs of the Joplin Jewish community and beyond. Make your secure online donation here.

Thank you all for reading this post and for your outpouring of support and generosity. Tizku l’Mitzvot.


  1. Hey,
    I just got a $10 walmart gift card as a promo, could you use that? (i could mail it to you if you email me your address). Also i have stuff i could donate but it would be very expensive to ship, is it possible to get discounted shipping if i am sending donations? or is it possible that someone might be driving from NJ to KS in the near future? keep me posted!

  2. Please, if you are able, donate blood. All types are needed but particularly if you are O Neg or O Pos. The blood supply is between 1-3 days. I am working the response and get these reports from the Blood Bank. Thank you!

  3. Kathy Lipkin says

    Hi Mara:
    Thank you for alerting the frugalistas to your mission. It brings the national news to a more concrete level.
    I used to live in Missouri. If I lived nearby now, I would use my stockpile and drive to Joplin also, but we live in Ohio.
    Are you in a position to receive a personal check from our family, that you can then use for aggressive couponing to get supplies for your Joplin trip? To me, the residents could get the most bang for our bucks that way.
    Totally understand if this is not workable, (we can donate to the link provided) but since we are trying to live like no one else, I don’t mind being bold 🙂

    • I totally get where you’re coming from – and you’re fine in asking. I really don’t feel comfortable taking cash from readers, though – I think it opens me up to all sorts of issues. Plus, it wouldn’t be tax deductible for you. I’m sorry. 🙁

  4. Mara, Do you have room for me to send some small stuff back with you on Monday? I’m not sure what I can do, but I’m sure I can find something.

    • Definitely! What a great idea. Spread the word – I will have the van and we always have room in the trunk. I’ll bring back whatever I can fit.

      Thank you so much for thinking of this!

  5. Thank you so much for posting this. I wish I had seen it sooner. I grew up in Joplin, and the entire thing has destroyed me. All of my childhood friends still live there. Thank you, really, for this amazing post with all the needs and necessary information!

    • I’ve been thinking of you, Chaviva. If you want me to touch base with anyone when we’re there – let me know! I’ve almost finalized details for the donation drive – and I’ll be sure to let you know when that’s up. Looks like much of the KC Jewish community will be getting involved. Mitzvah goreret mitzvah!!! <3

  6. Thanks for providing the link.. Tikuu lemitzvot..

  7. I know Colin of Hip2Save is organizing something pretty large scale. Maybe connect with her and join forces?

    • Yes! I saw this week that she is doing a whole bus tour of communities in the south. She is a force of nature – amazing woman!

  8. Tizki l’mitzvos, Mara. Thank you so much for the helpful links. I’m linking to this post in my roundup tomorrow. Of one my good friends has in-laws in Joplin. B”H, they’re all okay, but it’s still scary. I didn’t realize that you were so close, and I’m glad you’re okay.

  9. Joe Zollars says

    I am a former UHCer currently living in Lawrence, KS (bout an hour west of you I think). I was down this weekend to help out and take a donation down from my shul (the LJCC). There are not words to describe the devastation or the amazing response from the Jewish community at large. I would be more than happy to roll down with you and lend my muscles (Rabbi Boxman can attest to them) in loading/unloading. Please feel free to email me. Shavua tov.

  10. Joe Zollars says

    also, I would like to update, Baruch haShem, that all members of the shul are accounted for and despite some bumps and bruises and bruised psyches are alive and well. Though the material losses to the community members and to the larger community are astounding. There simply aren’t words to describe the devastation.

    • Thanks so much, Joe! Let’s be in touch! My email is kosheronabudget AT gmail DOT com. I’m planning to head down on the 19th – maybe you can also gather some supplies from Lawrence?

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