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The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee is 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. Donations to the 2017 Hurricane Relief Fund will support communities and individuals in Puerto Rico, Florida, Texas and other areas that have been hammered by these storms.


100% of your donation to the 2017 Hurricane Relief Fund will go to support those who have been affected by this year's devastating storms. On the donation form, you may specify whether to donate to our General Hurricane Relief Fund, which will send donations to the areas of greatest need, or to send your donation to those affected by a specific Hurricane.


Click the DONATE button to make your tax-deductible contribution now. Read below about how your donation dollars are helping the victims of these terrible disasters.


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.





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.


August 30 Update:

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.


September 13 Update:


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.


​September 28 Update:


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.


September 29 Update (JFNA):


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.


JFNA Dispursements of Funds


  • $1.75M to the Houston Federation providing for emergency cash assistance, short-term relocation costs for schools displaced by flooding, educational scholarships, replacement of equipment for the JCC seniors program, costs to ensure High Holiday services for flooded congregations, capitalization of a new flood related free loan program and as an initial emergency grant for the Federation to deploy as needed. [Note: These funds are in addition to $2M in restricted funds allocated to day school scholarships and capital repair needs. Because our committee is acting in response to the Houston Federation’s requests for 3 reimbursement, significant additional funds are in process being deployed but have not yet been formally approved.]
  • $100,000 to the Beaumont/Port Arthur and Galveston, TX communities to be administered through the local congregations and/or Houston JFS.
  • $50,000 to Nechama for their emergency response efforts in Houston and the surrounding region.


Hurricane Irma, a category 4 hurricane, bombarded the entire State of Florida September 9-11, with home-ripping winds and extensive flooding. 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 has shut down municipal services, highways, schools and community institutions.



Hurricane Irma: Long-Term Power Outages Creating Health Risks for Seniors


Hurricane Irma’s unexpected shift to Florida’s west coast appears to have mostly spared our largest Jewish population centers from what could have been a terrible disaster. But long-term power outages in Florida’s hot and humid climate are raising serious health concerns, especially for many seniors. According to The New York Times, there have already been a number of deaths in nursing homes. Some areas of the state could be looking at 10 more days without electricity.



Hurricane Irma Relief Efforts Update from JFNA

​September 29, 2017


In most of Florida and the neighboring states to the north Hurricane Irma had varying degrees of impact. For the most part, the areas with the largest Jewish populations on the east coast were spared significant damage. The most severe damage to homes and communal institutions are in Naples, Jacksonville and St. Augustine. In addition there are smaller communities up through Georgia that are reporting the need for some assistance for families and infrastructure.


The long power outages in the week following the storm created a significant short-term health issue, especially for seniors, and several Federations and Chabad engaged in extensive outreach, visiting, and food and water delivery efforts. The JFNA Emergency Committee provided emergency grants to a several local Federations last week. Other Federations took emergency response actions and the JFNA Emergency Committee will consider further grants to support these efforts as needed. JFNA is still assessing longer-range needs across the broad number of communities hit by Irma.


The truly severe impact from Irma has been in the Florida Keys and US Virgin Islands (St. Thomas) where enormous damage to power grids, airports, shipping ports, water supplies, medical systems and more have brought daily life to a standstill. In addition, many homes were damaged; some completely ruined. 2 Many people have been evacuated from both locales but there are small numbers of Jews who will not leave because they are involved professionally in government, medicine or other critical fields. The lack of communal infrastructure beyond the individual synagogue level provides additional challenges for JFNA and our Federations. JFNA is in active contact with and supporting the synagogue communities in both areas.


JFNA Dispersement of Funds


  • $40,000 to Florida Federations for food relief and cash assistance needs following Hurricane Irma. ·
  • $50,000 to the Hebrew Congregation in St. Thomas (USVI) for urgent cash assistance needs in the community.


Hurricane Maria struck islands in the Caribbean the third week of September. The islands of Puerto Rico and St. Thomas were particularly devastated by this category 4 storm. The Jewish Federation of North America is working tirelessly to respond to the enormous needs of the victims of Hurricane Maria. 



Aid to Puerto Rico and other Hurricane Relief Efforts

September 29, 2017 - Mark Gurvis, JFNA


We are in virtually hourly contact with the leadership of the Puerto Rico and St. Thomas communities around a whole host of issues.


Grants totaling $225K are already approved and funds transferred to support:

  • Direct aid grants to the synagogue communities in the various places
  • Funding to ship two containers with $200,000 of donated medical, emergency and construction supplies to PR and St. Thomas through Afya Foundation
  • Funding to support IsraAid’s deployment on Puerto Rico


With funding from UJA Federation of NY, 212 generators have been or are being delivered for the community’s needs (100 each to PR and St. Thomas; 12 to the Keys).


Working leadership from So. Palm Beach Federation we are coordinating logistics to move 80,000 lbs of donated food and other urgent supplies to the islands.


Over the past five weeks we have seen a brutal series of natural disasters and our Federation system has been deeply engaged in responding to each of them. We continue to work with the Houston Jewish community on the massive impact of Hurricane Harvey on their community ($30M+ of estimated needs, and with communities across Florida to assess needs from Hurricane Irma. JDC is actively working in Mexico following the earthquakes, and in other island nations affected by hurricanes.


Puerto Rico's Jewish Community


Maria had a crushing impact on several island nations and in Puerto Rico. The Puerto Rican community is about 1,500 people. It has two synagogues and a Chabad presence. The entire power grid for the island may be out for 4-6 months and the challenges ahead for the Jewish community there and for the general population are enormous. JFNA is working actively with local leadership in Puerto Rico to bring assistance to the island as quickly as possible. IsraAid also now has a team operating in Puerto Rico working directly with the Jewish community.


JFNA Dispersement of Funds


  • $75,000 to the Puerto Rico congregations for urgent cash assistance needs in their communities.
  • $80,000 to IsraAid to support their deployment in Puerto Rico providing emergency assistance and trauma counseling.
  • $50,000 to the Afya Foundation to support the shipping to two containers of medical and construction supplies to Puerto Rico