This was the strongest storm to hit Texas in decades. Heavy rainfall caused massive and widespread flooding, the most that’s been seen from a tropical storm, and power outages. Thousands of people around the Houston area were rescued from being stranded in their cars and homes in flood waters that were several feet high.
Ahead of the storm, most area synagogues cancelled Shabbat services. The Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center of Houston closed Friday and remained closed Sunday due to safety concerns.
Several Jewish community members led a volunteer emergency response team, and performed rescue operations Saturday night and Sunday.
“It’s really bad here,” Jewish community rescue volunteer Jenelle Garner said, reported the Jewish Herald-Voice. “We might be forced to leave….”
Rabbi Gidon Moskovitz of the Meyerland Minyan said that over half of his congregation had “taken in water” up to five feet deep in their homes, reported Hamodia.
Chabad-Lubavitch said that one its emissaries in Houston had taken in several people after they had become trapped by flooding after Shabbat.
“I am sad to report that many of our friends who flooded in the recent past are flooded once again, and there are many others who have never been flooded before,” says Rabbi Chaim Lazaroff, co-director of Chabad of Uptown with his wife, Chanie. “The rain is not stopping.”
The Houston area has been hard hit by flooding in recent years, but Saturday’s storm was by far the most widespread.
The Jewish Federation of Houston on its Facebook page posted Sunday, “Parts of our community have been impacted by the severe weather of the past two days. We are working with our partner agencies to assess the current situation in our community and determine priority on action items.”
Relief efforts were underway even before the water started to recede in some areas.
“We are heartbroken to see the impact of the storm on our community,” the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston stated Sunday on its Facebook page, adding that it launched a donation page to collect funds for the community’s immediate needs.
The Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago started a relief fund to help victims of the devastating storm.
“We are in touch and working with the Jewish Federations of North America, NECHAMA: Jewish Response to Disaster, and local Jewish communities in the storm’s path to gauge the scope of the damage as it unfolds and to quickly address specific needs of the Jewish and general communities,” the agency said in a statement.
Contributions to the Jewish Federation Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund can be made online at www.juf.org/HurricaneHarvey.