Danielle Minson — How You Help
Daily Update: Hurricane Harvey By Jerry Silverman
Thank you for your concern for Hurricane Harvey and the Jewish community. These updates are from Jerry Silverman, the President of the Jewish Federations of North America.
To learn how to donate please click here. —Danielle
September 13 Update:
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. JFNA has checked with every affected community, and preliminary reports show moderate to little institutional damage. The major facilities that support Jewish communal life are intact. However, we are still working to get a handle on the number of individual homes affected by flooding.
Hurricane Harvey Relief: $12 Million Raised; Initial Needs Assessment Should Be Completed this Week
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.
Jerry Silverman, President, The Jewish Federations of North America
September 11 Update:
We want to provide you with the most up-to-date information on the status of the situation in Houston and the latest information on allocations from the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund. Together we have raised over $8 million, with $1.6 million already allocated to meet urgent needs (these numbers are growing as I write this).
In the event that Hurricane Irma causes the catastrophic damage that has been predicted, a decision will be made to support that community.
Jerry Silverman, President, The Jewish Federations of North America
September 8 Update:
The wreckage in Houston continues to reveal itself, and the realization that our community has been brutally shattered has become our new normal. Cleanup has begun in earnest in areas where it’s possible, but West Houston remains under water. More than 70% of the Jewish community lives in parts of the city that were badly flooded, and that includes nearly 12,000 Jewish elderly. The start of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is now less than two weeks away and flooded synagogues are scrambling to find places to hold services.
Raised and Allocated
Jewish Federation donations continue to come in. To date, Jewish Federations have raised nearly $7.8M for Hurricane Harvey relief. $1.6M was allocated to address the following priorities:
- Immediate cash grants for flood victims essential needs
- Extended day-camp programming to make up for delayed school opening
- Expanding capacity of Jewish Family Services to allow them to provide one-stop, comprehensive assistance
- Grants to individual Rabbis’ discretionary funds to meet specific congregational needs
- Funds to the Hebrew Free Loan Association that will match resources from Cleveland, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco to create a new Hurricane Harvey loan pool
JFNA Continues to Organize Teams of Professionals to Aid Houston
JFNA is organizing its third team of national Federation professionals to assist the Houston Jewish Federation next week. We are also working with the Network of Jewish Services Agencies to enable them to provide national professional assistance to Houston’s Jewish Family Services agency for mental health counseling.
Houston Federation Flood Committee to Meet Again Next Week
At its next meeting, the Houston Federation Flood Committee will allocate additional funds as the requirements of the community become more apparent. They will also address further financial assistance needs that are designed to strengthen local agency capacity. The committee will also help flooded synagogues find temporary locations for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
Updated Volunteer Information
Houston still needs volunteers! Those interested should call 800-820-5188 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
News Directly From Houston
Houston Jewish Herald-Voice
News about Houston from Other Jewish Communities
New Jersey Jewish News—Houston Federation launches rebuilding campaign
New York Jewish Week—Reaching out to Houston
Florida Jewish Journal—Boca, Delray groups join for hurricane relief
Florida Jewish Journal—Hurricane victims to benefit from temple’s ‘Bring a Buck’ campaign
Baltimore Jewish Times—How to Help Houston
New Jersey Jewish News—NJ Jews provide aid to Hurricane Harvey victims
Atlanta Jewish Times—Jewish Atlanta answers Harvey’s challenge
President & CEO
The Jewish Federations of North America
September 5 Update:
While we are keeping an eye on South Florida and Hurricane Irma, our work with Houston continued throughout the weekend. The central area of the sprawling Houston region is in the “mucking out phase” (clearing out furnishings and damaged plaster). None of it can be removed from in front of a house until insurance adjusters and FEMA representatives have come to verify the damage. Other parts of Houston are still under water and inaccessible. For that reason we don’t have much information about the damage to the four congregations and JCC annex located in West Houston because they are still inaccessible.
JFNA’s Emergency Committee Authorized Additional Funds
Yesterday JFNA’s Emergency Committee met to allocate an additional $250,000, which brings total allocations to $750,000. These funds cover cash assistance to flood victims (distributed through the local Jewish Family Service), extended day camp for programs that provide safe places for children, grants to rabbis for congregant families in need, grant to the Houston Hebrew Free Loan Association to supplement loan pool for hurricane-specific needs matching dollars pledged by four other large Hebrew Free Loan Associations.
Volunteers and Incoming Supplies Face Logistical Challenges
There are many volunteer efforts throughout the Houston area and within the Jewish community. Outside groups are starting to show up but getting volunteers and supplies to where they’re needed is difficult and in some cases impossible; housing and feeding them is also a challenge. With generous support from the Taube Philanthropies (based in San Francisco) we have been fortunate to work with All Hands, a group that focusses on addressing the immediate and long-term needs of communities impacted by natural disasters by leveraging volunteers. From here on in they will serve as the point of contact for all Jewish-community volunteer efforts. Requests to volunteer should be directed to 1-800-820-5188.
The JCC is no longer serving as a distribution center so there is no longer a mechanism for managing donations of physical items. In-kind donations should be sent to the United Way of Greater Houston.
Gearing Up for What Comes Next
We anticipate the following items will be significant parts of what we are looking to fund and support next:
- Help relieve communal workers (day school faculty, human service agency personnel, clergy, etc) hit by flooding balance their work and personal crises
- Repair major communal facilities that have experience major damage including the JCC, Seven Acres nursing home, Beth Yeshurun day school, Torch and three synagogues.
- Offer mental health support to families that have now been flooded two or three times in less than three years
- Assist victims who have been displaced and require temporary housing, transportation, legal services, etc.
President & CEO
The Jewish Federations of North America
September 1 Update:
From: Desk of Jerry Silverman, President, Jewish Federations of North America
Tonight we welcome the first Shabbat after the devastating Hurricane Harvey. Jewish communities in Houston and the vicinity have been through a terrible ordeal, and there are many difficult challenges ahead. But despite that, we should all take a moment as Shabbat begins to reflect on what it means to share our strength in numbers through good times and bad.
A small delegation of senior Federation professionals arrived on the ground in Houston late last night. At the bottom of this email are excerpts from a report from UJA-Federation of New York Chief Planning Officer Deborah Joselow.
Cash remains the most urgent need. Here is the latest update as of Friday afternoon:
$500K Transferred to Houston Federation
Houston received the initial $500,000 cash authorization from JFNA’s Emergency Committee to purchase immediate urgent needs such as pillows, blankets, flashlights, cleaning supplies, etc.
Counseling Phone Line Live: 832-930-0196
The Network of Jewish Human Service Agencies (NJHSA) and Jewish Family Service in Houston have launched an emergency support line (called a warm line) available to all members of the public. It provides telephone-based counseling sessions on a scheduled appointment basis. Clinicians from across NJHSA’s membership offer focused assistance in managing the impact of the trauma and in finding personal and family resilience to move forward.
Too Soon for Volunteers to Go to Houston
The Houston Federation is not yet able to provide safe access to housing, food, or medical services. Federation partner NECHAMA – Jewish Response to Disaster, which coordinate volunteers, is working to get staff into the area in the next seven days. Once that is done, they will be ready to get volunteer boots on the ground.
JCC Serves as Distribution Hub
The Houston JCC has turned itself into a distribution center for emergency cleanup supplies for community members whose houses were ravaged by flood waters.
Surrounding Federations Send Aid
Neighboring Federation communities — including Dallas, San Antonio, Austin, Fort Worth & Tarrant County, and New Orleans — are mobilizing and dispatching kosher food and cleaning supplies such gloves, brooms, chemicals, garbage bags, OTC medications, water, diapers, and hygiene products to Houston.
Israelis Stepping Up to Help
Several Israeli NGOs and numerous generous citizens are demonstrating support with cash donations and offers of technical help and personnel.
1,000 Fans Donated
A supply of desperately-needed fans has been donated and is scheduled to arrive at the Houston JCC today. These fans are critical to helping dry out water-damaged property.
New App Allows Harvey Victims to Share Their Stories on Video
FEDvoices, a smartphone app available in the App Store and on Google Play, enables Houstonians to thank donors, make requests, and share their stories.
NYL Cabinet Sends Emergency Supplies via Amazon
National Young Leadership Cabinet members have purchased 16,000 items from an Amazon wish list that will be delivered to Houston on Saturday.
From UJA-Federation of New York Chief Planning Officer Deborah Joselow.
“It’s a very surreal situation with some areas completely devastated and others virtually untouched. Whole neighborhoods are essentially streets lined with personal belongings — heaps of clothing, furniture, toys. The piles are eerily orderly — these are people who know post-flood protocol. They seem tired but resigned, more weary than shocked. And then, a few major traffic jams away, restaurants and shops are open and life seems strangely normal.
“The Jewish community is heavily concentrated in a few zip codes — 75% of Jews here belong to just five synagogues. Several pockets of the Jewish community were disproportionately impacted by the storm. For example, 700 homes belonging to members of one shul with 850 families are under water.
“The JCC expects that its early childhood program will be shuttered for weeks, if not months. The major Conservative synagogue — which also houses the day school — is a total loss. They are scrambling to find a place to relocate the school so it can open. We are working with them to find alternatives.
“There are bright spots. People are so gracious. Despite their fatigue and personal trauma, everyone we have met has been quick with a hug and eager to thank us for showing up. One of the Jewish overnight camps has partnered with a large synagogue to create a day camp. They serve three meals a day and operate with a staff of volunteers. Children can be cared for and nurtured while adults try to figure out reality. In the lobby of the hotel, a young man delivered a bag of kosher meals to an older couple. I am not sure who cooked it or how the food found the couple, but somehow it happened. The JCC tennis center — the only building on the campus that did not flood — has become a drop-off and distribution center for food, water, diapers, and cleaning supplies, and there is an equally steady flow of cars dropping off and cars picking up.
“Jewish Family Service, which we’re helping support, is giving out cash assistance to support emergency needs. Next, we’ll be working on getting inventory on how many homes were destroyed. On Sunday, a major volunteer day will match people who want to help to those who need the help.”