Hurricane Harvey, the category 4 storm that bombarded the Gulf Coast on Saturday with home-ripping winds and extensive damage, continues to dump rain in large areas of central Texas. Despite difficult conditions, emergency officials are working to assess the damage that has already left hundreds of thousands of people without power or access to food and water and shut down municipal services, highways, schools and community institutions.
Help us help the victims of Hurricane Harvey.
Donations to the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund will support communities and individuals in Houston, San Antonio, Galveston, Corpus Christi and other areas that have been hammered by this storm. With record breaking volumes of rain having fallen through the weekend and expected to continue through tomorrow, extensive damage is continuing to mount.
Lee Wunsch, CEO of the Houston Federation, reports: The community has experienced three major floods in less than two years; and this was the worst one. It is almost unbelievable. We have received half of our total yearly rainfall in just three days and it is still raining.
Schools are closed and mass infrastructure problems caused by flooding have made it difficult to travel and assess the extent of the damage. No one can believe that they are dealing with flooding for the second time in less than a year and, like last time, some of the hardest hit areas are in the hub of Jewish life. Here are photos from the local ABC News affiliate that show what life is like in Houston.
Many of Houston’s large elderly Jewish population had to be evacuated from their residences. Flooding at the Jewish Assisted Living Center resulted in the need to rent a second generator, which was quite costly.
Displaced families are in the process of taking up shelter at nearby schools. Many local residents have organized rescue missions for those that are stranded or unable to help themselves.
In parts of the Houston area, Hurricane Harvey (now a tropical storm) 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 was flooded. Heavy rains continued for the 6th straight day. 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. While we do not yet know the full extent of the damage, we know that many Jewish institutions have flooded and sustained damage. Seventy-one percent of the Jewish community – including nearly 12,000 elderly members – live in areas that have seen massive flooding. It remains too early to determine the extent of damage.
The priority is to provide support that the Houston community most needs. Funds will be deployed to address immediate relief needs – emergency cash grants to assist families who have been displaced and need temporary housing, food, shelter and other basic needs. Some funding will be allocated to local and national agencies 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, we will broaden our 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 into Houston to help.
To date, the Hurricane Harvey relief effort has raised about $12 million. Later this week, JFNA’s Emergency Committee and the Houston Federation’s local allocations committee are both meeting to review a comprehensive framework to address recovery and rebuilding needs, now estimated to be in the $26-33 million range.
JFNA’s third national team is on the ground in Houston this week, represented by Joy Goldstein, associate vice president of planning at JFNA, and Andi Milens, director of engagement and leadership development at the Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City. Local focus remains strong on readying synagogues for the High Holiday season and on maintaining the campaign’s momentum.
National Young Leadership Cabinet gathered 20 people from communities around the country last week for a three-day mission to Houston, which was well-received. The group was involved in setting up the JCC’s temporary preschool site and in cleaning up homes. Here’s a video they produced about the visit.
The Jewish Federation of North America (JFNA) has done an amazing job of mobilizing experienced senior professionals, and harnessing an extensive network of relief providers. Click the links below to read about JFNA's Hurricane Harvey Emergency Response for Hurricane Harvey victims.
The devastation across the Houston region generally and in the Jewish community is on the scale of Katrina in New Orleans. With an estimated 2,000 homes flooded and seven major community facilities severely damaged the short, near and long term needs for the Jewish community are now estimated in excess of $30M. In addition, the small neighboring communities of Galveston and Beaumont/Port Arthur have a number of Jewish families with severely flooded homes. The Federation system has raised about $15.5M. More than half of this figure has been raised by the Houston Federation. It is likely that this number is based on under-reported fundraising results at the community level and we also anticipate several additional significant foundation grants will be approved in the next week. But these other resources are not likely to amount to more than $2-3M, leaving Houston they need, at least at this point.
100% of your donation to the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund will go to support those who have been affected by this devastating storm.
Click the DONATE button to make your tax-deductible contribution now.
Story of Federation Impact: Houston
On the night Hurricane Harvey flooded their home, two of Judi and Roger’s four sons were staying with their grandparents. They were the lucky ones. Since that night, the rest of the family has been struggling to overcome the trauma. And Judi is grateful to the Jewish Federation for providing not only practical support to help them put their lives back together, but also the trauma counseling she and her family needed.
Their home had never been flooded before — neither had their street — and they were unprepared for just how quickly it happened. Before they even had a chance to pack a change of clothes, the family found themselves huddled on a bed, watching in disbelief as the water rushed in and surrounded them. It was too late to get to the roof of their one-story house, so when their neighbors offered them a room on their second floor, Roger put his seven-year-old son on his shoulders and they all waded outside through waist-deep water.
“We were on our neighbor’s second floor for three days,” Judi recounted. All four of them, along with two dogs, using a child’s bedroom as a shelter, with their hosts in the room next door and a foot of water on the first floor. Rather than attempt evacuation, they decided it would be safer and more comfortable to stay put.
Out on the street, the water current was so strong that Judi couldn’t get into her house to try to salvage a few things. When she finally was able to get inside, she grabbed her laptop and a few other items. But virtually everything the family owned was destroyed.
The Jewish community came through with the help they needed. Meals arrived, and volunteers showed up to help them sort through their belongings. The JCC handed out supplies and Target gift cards. The Federation provided emergency money to get them through the weekend, no questions asked. Volunteers from the Federation’s Young Leadership department came to help them pack up. “When everyone else had left, they stayed and continued to help us. Even when I said, ‘No, other people need help more,’ they still sent help. They knew I needed it.”
But for Judi and her family, the most valuable service the Jewish community provided was trauma counseling. “Jewish Family Service set up shop in the JCC, providing someone I could talk to who was there to listen when I really needed it. I could break down because they were there to help.”
A therapist herself, Judi has been moved by the support offered to her family. “It’s not easy for me to ask for help — I’m used to giving help. It’s been a humbling experience,” she said. “We’re so fortunate to have this community. The Houston Jewish community will survive this and come back stronger.”
Jewish Federations are there when you need us most.
Our network of local and international partners enables us to respond quickly and effectively.
We fund urgently needed basics like food and medicine, and long-term need like trauma counseling.
We provide resources to emergency service providers so they can help where they're most needed.