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Working Towards Recovery: The Carmel Wildfire Allocations Committee 

Olivia Bodzin
March, 2011

The Carmel fire, which devastated northern Israel, hit close to home for many San Diego residents, who witnessed ravaging fires in 2003 and 2007 in southern California. One such resident, Andrea Oster, witnessed the snake of fire engulfing land and homes as she flew over San Diego in the fall of 2003.


Andrea, who has served The Jewish Federation of San Diego as past board chair and president of Women’s Philanthropy, as well as chair of Planning and Allocation, is now chair for the Carmel Wildfire Allocations Committee.


Following the generous outpouring of emergency funds for the Carmel Wildfire, The Jewish Federation of San Diego was approached to recommend a chair for the Carmel Wildfire Allocations Committee, and Andrea’s prior involvement and experience made her an excellent choice. The retired dental hygienist, and current resident of La Jolla, Calif., has been involved in the Jewish community throughout her 36 years as resident of San Diego.


Andrea was chosen to lead a group of 12 members (10 from Federations and two JFNA lay leaders) in addition to three observers from various Federations across North America and three staff members from JFNA.


She described the committee as a group of “serious and thoughtful individuals determined to make impactful decisions on aftermath needs for the victims of the Carmel fire.” The committee has already held three meetings over December 2010 and January 2011, with an additional one planned in the coming months to reevaluate needs during the later recovery period.


Heading a committee is nothing new for Andrea, but implementing the work on a national scale with geographic distance and time differences as contenders was a new challenge. “Even the obvious obstacles didn’t get in the way of dealing with the matter at hand and committee members were encouraged to share insights and speak their minds regarding choices for allocations over our conference calls,” she said.


Andrea’s commitment to the Jewish community has impacted Jews all over the world. After studying education at Ohio State University and receiving an MBA from San Diego State University, she has traveled to Israel nine times since 1982, with her most recent trip in 2008 for the JFNA General Assembly. Andrea has also participated in many missions with her local Federation. An especially memorable visit in the early 90’s saw the first waves of Soviet Jews coming to Israel through Operation Exodus. “I knew I wanted to greet them on the tarmac and welcome them to Israel, I felt very strongly about it, and the experience remains with me to this day as a vivid milestone of my life,” recalled Andrea.


Andrea thanked the JFNA staff members working with the committee profusely, saying that “they have been instrumental in helping to facilitate the work needed to run the meetings smoothly and provide relevant information to committee members. The entire group is fantastic, the experience is very meaningful and I am extremely pleased and proud of the final allocation decisions.”