In the aftermath of the devastating earthquake in eastern Turkey yesterday, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) has begun collecting funds for relief efforts. Responding to initial reports of hundreds of deaths and wide-spread building collapse, JDC is working with its local partners—including Turkey’s Jewish community—to ensure the victims’ immediate needs are addressed. JDC’s past humanitarian interventions in Turkey have included the provision of aid and training after earthquakes in 2010 and 1999. JDC staff experts are currently determining what next steps are necessary, especially in the hardest-hit Van Province.

“Our hearts go out to the people of Turkey at this tragic time and we offer our condolences to the families of those lost in the earthquake. Building off our historic work in Turkey, the disaster-preparedness training we have provided in the past, and the strength of our partnership with the Turkish Jewish community, we are responding quickly and strategically to help victims in their time of need,” said Steven Schwager, JDC’s Chief Executive Officer.

The 7.2 earthquake is the most powerful to hit Turkey in a decade. As rescue crews continue search operations, aftershocks plague the region. JDC’s multi-pronged involvement in the Turkish Jewish community began following World War I when it came to the aid of orphaned Jewish children. JDC’s work continued with its reinvestment in Turkey in 1992 by improving social services and Jewish community-based economic development, as well as its provision of disaster-relief and development efforts in the country.

JDC’s disaster relief programs are funded by special appeals of the Jewish Federations of North America and tens of thousands of individual donors to JDC. JDC coordinates its relief activities with the U.S. Department of State, USAID, Interaction, the Israeli Foreign Ministry, Israeli relief agencies, and the United Nations. JDC has provided immediate relief and long-term assistance to victims of natural and manmade disasters around the globe and continues to operate programs designed to rebuild infrastructure and community life in disaster-stricken regions.