You know that story about Noah and the flood? Pretty much happened to the Houston metro area this week, minus the ark. Between Monday night and Tuesday morning, the area was devastated with a torrential 11 inches of rain that resulted in massive flooding, power outages and destruction of property. The Houston Jewish community is mobilizing into action to assess the damage to their members’ houses, area synagogues and community centers, and they need all the help they can get from the Twin Cities.
Rodi Franco, Chief Marketing Officer of the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston informed us that while it was sunny this morning and the water had receded, the work has just begun. “We’re trying to do a lot right now,” she talks in the clear voice of someone who is prepared to tackle a crisis. “We need to find out who has insurance and who doesn’t, who needs immediate help ripping out walls and floors and who still is out of power.”
The JCC sustained minor damage, but the United Orthodox Synagogue had much more serious flooding, along with the Beth Israel Synagogue. “Frankly, it’s about people’s homes and cars,” Franco said of the most serious damage. “It’s going to take months for people to be able to get rid of all the damaged carpet, wet sheetrock and furniture that will start to mold.” Not to mention, that many Jewish community members may need new homes and cars completely, including the CEO of the Jewish Federation who found three feet of water in his car.
Twin Cities Jewish Organization to the Rescue
I asked Franco if she was working with NECHAMA, the only Jewish disaster relief organization in the country that also just happens to be based in the Twin Cities. “Yes, we’re hoping to have them down here soon,” she said. “We’re just finalizing details.”
NECHAMA works by utilizing their network of Jewish community contacts across regions to focus on providing help where it is needed the most. They started as a Midwest regional disaster relief organization, but began to provide help nationally after Katrina in 2005. “Once a natural disaster strikes, we fly a staff member in ASAP to get boots on the ground and start meeting with Jewish officials in the area,” Bill Driscoll, Executive Director of Nechama said of their comprehensive relief process.
The Houston area is no exception. Within 48 hours,NECHAMA was already mobilizing a force to bring supplies and support to the Houston metro and are on the ground in Austin. They are actively looking for more volunteers to help with the crisis, especially from the Twin Cities.
“Anyone is welcome to volunteer regardless of affiliation,” Driscoll says. “We are looking for individuals to take on team leader roles.” Nechama will provide volunteers with targeted training for safety, wind, water and flood clean up. They are also hoping to find drivers to transport equipment to disaster locations. So, if anyone is heading to Houston and can carry supplies or wants to work a chainsaw (or both), contact [email protected]. They will be in need of volunteers for at least the next three to four weeks. “For a day or a week, any help will be appreciated,” Driscoll says. “We’ll teach anyone how to work and give them the training and tools to do it.”
Future training events to learn how to become a team disaster relief leader forNECHAMA will be listed on the TCJewfolk.com events calendar.
Help Houston Rebuild
“We are in immediate need of supplies to help people repair their homes,” Franco rattled off a list of the items most in need: bottled water, work gloves, plastic storage bins, heavy trash bags, work gloves, heavy duty razor blades to rip out carpet and cleaning supplies, including towels. Donations to help residents get the basic services they need in order to repair their homes are also in great need. Information on where to send supplies and how to donate is listed below.
“We’re optimistic that we’ll be able to move forward but we’re still in the thick of it,” Franco admits. “It’s challenging.”
The Twin Cities community can help them rebuild, one house at a time. If Noah could do forty days in an ark, we certainly can help with a few supplies and donations. Who’s with me?
Email [email protected] for more information on how to donate supplies. Supplies can be sent to ERJCC. 5601 S. Braeswood Blvd. Houston, TX 77096.
Find more information and donate directly at houstonjewish.org/houstonflood or donate to NECHAMA
Interested in volunteering? Contact NECHAMA at [email protected].