Flooding damage from Hurricane Harvey

Hurricane Harvey was devastating for Houston’s Jewish community. More than 2,000 Jewish houses flooded, and institutional damage alone exceeded $50 million. Teaming up with the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston, UJA-Federation of New York raised $820,000 specifically for Hurricane Harvey relief. Those funds were fully allocated and the UJA added over $120,000 more for a total of $957,024 to help Houston.

In all, this money was put directly toward helping people impacted, including:

  • By Rochelle Miller

    Emergency relief (cash, supplies, etc.)

  • Repair recovery (to repair damage and for longer-term strategic planning, etc.
  • Trauma support and case management
  • Scholarships (for summer camps, day schools, dues, etc.)
  • Relocation and mobilization

Two UJA professionals who were instrumental in UJA relief efforts after Hurricane Sandy were sent to Houston for two weeks and continued providing expertise when they returned to New York.

With 18 percent of Houston-area residents suffering post-storm psychological distress, the UJA helped fund efforts to bring in counselors from the Israel Trauma Coalition. These professionals have trained hundreds of teachers, school administrators, and first-responders on how to assist people who have been struggling in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. These important UJA contributions are part of an over $22 million recovery campaign by the Houston Federation to provide families with disaster relief, rebuild Jewish institutions, and support the continuity of Jewish life in the wake of the storm that wreaked havoc on one of the nation’s most vibrant Jewish communities one year ago.

“After Sandy, we gained a new and firsthand perspective on the short- and long-term impact on people’s lives after natural disasters,” stated the UJA. “We were glad to be able to contribute professional help and financial resources that helped their road to recovery.”

Immediately following the storm, the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston (JFGH) and Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) set up the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund to assist the community with both short- and long-term recovery. To date, the fund has raised over $22 million, including an unprecedented $1 million gift from the State of Israel.

The fund provided immediate assistance to individuals and families after the storm and continues to support the rebuilding of Jewish institutions and continuity, working to ensure resiliency from future flooding.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Houston has done an exemplary job of distribution of its funds quickly and responsibly. Its quick action, successful fundraising, strategic planning, and responsible appropriation of relief funds serve as an emergency-response exemplar for other institutions across the nation.

“We are so grateful to the UJA for the vital assistance they provided to Houston’s Jewish communities in our time of need,” said Avital Ingber, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston. “From expert guidance based on their experience recovering from Hurricane Sandy to numerous contributions toward everything from emergency relief to mental-health recovery efforts, we couldn’t have done this without them.

“Houston wouldn’t be where it is today without the invaluable help we received from UJA, JFNA, and federations all around the country. This is what the federation system is all about: Jewish brothers and sisters from across the nation, and even the world, taking care of one another. The response to our needs in Houston has been incredible, and we thank everyone who has donated funds, care packages, or their time to the cause.

“The Houston Federation was also incredibly grateful to receive an unprecedented $1 million grant from the State of Israel which was utilized to rebuild Jewish institutions, including the Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center. While we’ve come a long way, Houston’s Jewish community is far from recovered. Many families are still displaced and struggling, and the fate of several institutions remains uncertain. We ask fellow members of the Jewish community and Americans nationwide to look into their hearts and if at all possible, help Houstonians with their continued recovery needs in the aftermath of this devastating storm.”

She added, “Just as it was before Hurricane Harvey, the goal of the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston is to make the city’s Jewish community one of the best places to live a modern Jewish life that is active and meaningful. Houston is a strong, resilient community and we are confident that it will come back from this stronger than ever.”

Rochelle Maruch Miller is a contributing editor for the Five Towns Jewish Times. She is a journalist, creative media consultant, lecturer, and educator, and writes for magazines, newspapers, websites, and private clients. She welcomes your comments at Rochellemiller04@aol.com


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