A Helping Hand For Houston

    By Samantha Dubrinsky, 

    BJF Director of Community Impact

    In the past week, the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey, which hit Houston, Texas last week, continues to mount. Hundreds of thousands of families have been displaced, the death toll is climbing and billions of dollars in damage to infrastructure have been estimated.
    “Recovery like this — it is a disaster larger than Katrina in terms of the amount of water that fell — we’re going to have short- and long-term recovery plans, but this is probably going to take us years to get back to where we were,” said Taryn Baranowski, the chief marketing officer for the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston.
    While there’s no doubt that the recovery will be a challenge, there is a silver lining in this disaster. Jewish communities all across the US have come to the aid of Houston. Our Birmingham Jewish community has been part of those efforts. The Levite Jewish Community Center began collecting supplies to take to Houston thanks to the leadership of Jennifer Sokol, a member of the Birmingham community who is from Houston.
    If you walked through the LJCC last week, you might have noticed a room full of diapers, food, water and other necessities. This all was collected in just four days and then driven to Houston. Some donors also gave through their funds at the Birmingham Jewish Foundation. Additionally, the Birmingham Jewish Federation contributed $1,500 to Jewish Federations of North America’s emergency relief fundraiser for Houston. (Jewish Federations of North America is the BJF’s parent organization.)
    Aid is even coming all the way from Israel. In the days after the hurricane struck, Israel was on the ground helping assist in recovery efforts. IsraAID, an organization funded by the BJF’s Israel-World Jewry Bureau allocations process, sent a group that consisted of disaster management experts, mental health experts and engineers. The group is focusing on coordination of relief work and providing basic needs including stress relief activities and recreation for those impacted by the hurricane, according to the Times Of Israel.
    But, it’s not just man power that Israel is contributing to the disaster relief. Israel said on Monday that it will donate $1 million in emergency aid to Houston’s Jewish community to aid in post-Harvey recovery efforts. Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett says in a statement that the funds will be earmarked to help the 60,000-strong community repair and rebuild schools, synagogues and a community center damaged in the storm and floods.
    “I’ll be completely transparent, it’s devastating,” Houston Federation’s Baranowski said. “This is a flood that no one could have anticipated it getting as bad as it did; it was a worst-case scenario. We live in a community that is densely populated in an area that got severely impacted by the weather.”
    While we at the BJF can’t imagine the devastation that this community is going through, we want all Houstonians to know that many are ready to support their rebirth and rebuilding. We stand with you in your efforts.
    Thank you to all those in our Birmingham community who are helping in so many different ways.

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