UPDATE: September 18, 2017: Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund
As of September 18th, more than $10 million has been raised – which is one-third of the estimated $30 million needed to rebuild. These funds, from federations, foundations and the Government of Israel, are already being put to work. Of the 51,000 Jews who live in Houston, 71% live in areas affected by flooding. 1,000 people have been displaced from their homes. 14% of Jewish day school students and 20% of day school staff have confirmed flooding. Six major Houston Jewish institutions have suffered catastrophic flood damage including three of the largest synagogues and a day school. Seven Acres, with one of the largest Alzheimer’s care units in the country, experienced complete flooding on its first floor. Residents had to be relocated.
A check in the amount of $2,000 was issued to JFNA from the Jewish Federation of Northeastern Pennsylvania’s Emergency Fund and directed to the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund.
UPDATE: September 11, 2017
The Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) has opened an Emergency Relief Fund to support communities and individuals who have been hammered by Hurricane Harvey.
In parts of the Houston area, Hurricane Harvey has set a record for the most rainfall from a single storm anywhere in the U.S. It is reported that 25%-30% of Harris County’s 1,800 square miles has been flooded. The police chief reported that authorities have received about 70,000 calls for help. Houston’s Mayor Sylvester Turner says the city’s focus now is on rescue and not on damage assessment or recovery at the moment.
The Houston Jewish Community has been hit especially hard by the storm. The devastation is unimaginable, and the Jewish Federation of Houston and Houston’s Jewish Family Service (JFS) facilities, as well as at least one large Orthodox synagogue are flooded, but the full extent of the damage is not yet known. Seventy-one percent of the Jewish community (including nearly 12,000 elderly members) live in areas that have seen massive flooding.
JFNA’s Emergency Committee met on August 31st and approved the first grant of $500,000 to the Houston Federation to support the immediate relief and recovery efforts of the local community. The funds will be used to assist displaced families with temporary housing and food, and supplies to clean up an estimated 1,000 homes of Jewish community members that sustained severe flood damage The Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) has convened the same network of disaster response organizations that helped coordinate the overall Jewish response to Hurricane Karina (2005) and Superstorm Sandy (2012). Its focus will be to maximize resources and minimize duplication of effort. For now, JFNA is coordinating all donated goods and volunteer offers.
JFNA’s priority is to provide support that the Houston community most needs. Funds will be deployed to address immediate relief needs like locating and relocating residents, and ensuring they have the basics: food, blankets, clothes and a satellite phone to reach their loved ones. It will also provide emergency cash grants from donated funds to assist families who have been displaced and need temporary housing, food, shelter and other basic needs.
Funding will be allocated to local and national agencies as well that need additional resources to provide critical services such as trauma counseling and logistical support to victims of the hurricane.
When the scope of the damage and needs have been assessed, it will broaden its focus to include aiding individuals and families who require short-term or longer-term assistance with housing; helping local Jewish institutions resume operations, and mobilizing and supporting volunteers who are coming to Houston to help.
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 ten volunteers from partner groups like the Jewish Response to Disaster (JRD). The actual rebuilding and renovating will comes in the months ahead.
Should members of the Jewish communities of Northeastern Pennsylvania wish to donate to the mounting toll of the storm by contributing to the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund, please click on the following links:
Sincerest thanks for your support.
Mark Silverberg, Executive Director
Jewish Federation of Northeastern Pennsylvania