It’s been five days since Hurricane Harvey hit America’s Gulf Coast. Houston's first responders have rescued more than 3,500 people from the floodwaters, and that number is almost certain to rise. For the immediate future, all activities are focused on recovery; federal and local authorities agree that recovery and volunteer activities need to wait. Raising funds is the most important thing we can do right now to help.
To aid in that effort, Israeli Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett generated headlines in Hebrew and English yesterday by posting an appeal on his Facebook page to give money to the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston. As of noon today, JFNA’s mailbox has raised hundreds of thousands of funds from thousands of donors, and we know that the fundraising efforts of our communities and their emergency allocations have pushed the overall result to seven figures.
Yesterday we began work to convene JVOAD, the network of disaster response organizations that helped coordinate the overall Jewish response to Hurricane Karina (2005) and Superstorm Sandy (2012). In this role, our focus is on maximizing resources and minimizing duplication of effort.
JFNA’s Emergency Committee is convening today to start establishing guidelines for responding to Hurricane Harvey, and to start approving initial grants. We will first be assisting with immediate needs like locating and relocating residents, and ensuring they have the basics: food, blankets, clothes, a satellite phone to reach their loved ones. The next step will focus on homes: removing water, mud, and furniture; ripping out drywall; and pulling out floorboards, a process that, for just one home, means several days of work for 10 volunteers from partner groups like NECHAMA - Jewish Response to Disaster. The actual rebuilding and renovating comes in the months that follow. You can read about the work of the Emergency Committee here.
Please be sure you are using this link to direct those who want to give towards this important recovery effort: https://www.jewishfederations.
Jerry Silverman, president and CEO of JFNA
REPORT FROM HOUSTON: AUGUST 30, 2017
Our Federation staff and other Jewish professionals are working tirelessly to respond to community needs while managing flood damage in workplaces and at home. The devastation is unimaginable, and Federation and Jewish Family Service (JFS) facilities, as well as at least one large Orthodox synagogue, are flooded.
People are committed to rebuilding and staying in Houston. Local volunteers are organizing and helping each other.
The local JCC will open tomorrow to serve as the central address for aid distribution. We hope to be able to start passing out supplies to help residents clean their homes and prepare to restore water-damaged items. JFS case workers will be on location to assist individuals and households in need, and JFS is working with the Network of Jewish Human Service Agencies to set up a counseling hotline, among other things.
Local rabbis are working together, planning dinners and co-utilizing synagogue space so that congregations with damaged buildings can hold services in safe locations.