Today is December 15, 2019 -

Harvey Relief

The National Weather Service tweeted that the effects associated with Tropical Storm Harvey are “unprecedented” and “unknown and beyond anything experienced.”

Like the storm itself, the response to the storm has been tremendous. People want to help.

In his e-mail update on Wednesday, Jerry Silverman, CEO of Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), wrote, “For the immediate future, all activities are focused on rescue; federal and local authorities agree that recovery and volunteer activities need to wait. Raising funds is the most important thing we can do right now to help.”

While most of us lack the necessary training to be more help than hindrance right now, this is not true for the very capable groups of Israelis on their way to Houston. For example, the Israel Rescue Coalition sent a team with psychologists, psychiatrists, and therapists, and IsraAID is using a two-stage approach to first help with cleaning up and the second to offer trauma support. As with most world disasters, Israel was one of the first to dispatch specialized relief workers. 

How is JFNA helping? Jerry continued, “Yesterday we began work to convene Jewish Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (JVOAD), the network of disaster response organizations that helped coordinate the overall Jewish response to Hurricane Katrina (2005) and Superstorm Sandy (2012). In this role, our focus is on maximizing resources and minimizing duplication of effort. For now, we are coordinating all donated goods and volunteer offers;

JFNA’s Emergency Committee is convening tomorrow to start establishing guidelines for responding to Hurricane Harvey, and to start approving initial grants. We will first be assisting with immediate needs like locating and relocating residents, and ensuring they have the basics: food, blankets, clothes, a satellite phone to reach their loved ones. 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 10 volunteers from partner groups like NECHAMA – Jewish Response to Disaster. The actual rebuilding and renovating comes in the months that follow.”

Certainly, there is no shortage of competent and trustworthy charities doing relief work for Harvey’s victims. Please support one of them. I’ll be supporting JFNA’s efforts. You can support them directly by clicking here, or if you are more comfortable, you may send a check to Jewish Federation of NENY, The Golub Center, 184 Washington Avenue Ext., Albany, NY 12203-5306, and we’ll make sure that it all gets to the right place.

Friday updates:

After writing the above on Thursday afternoon, I received the following updates from JFNA:

  1. “JFNA’s Emergency Committee met this afternoon 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.

A team of three senior professionals from JFNA, UJA Federation of New York, and the Los Angeles Jewish Federation arrived this afternoon to begin supporting the local Federation and community in organizing their recovery efforts. The team will be particularly focused in helping determine the range of social and educational needs facing community members, assessing the damage to local institutions and organizations and how they can be helped to get back in operation, and developing mechanisms for managing the professional and volunteer service efforts.

This team joins a strong team of local Houston professionals from Federation, JFS, JCC and other institutions who unfortunately have gained much experience with floods in recent years and from assisting New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

While the storm has thankfully moved past Houston, it has continued to have a powerful impact in eastern Texas and western Louisiana. JFNA’s staff has been checking in with the small communities in that area to assess their situation.”

  1. “Israel’s High Court of Justice ordered the Government to explain its unilateral decision to freeze the Kotel agreement, which the Government itself had achieved through negotiations in good faith with all parties. The Government has two weeks to respond to the Court’s demand.”
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