It’s been five days since Hurricane Harvey hit America’s Gulf Coast. Houston police have rescued more than 3,500 people from the floodwaters, and that number is almost certain to rise. 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.
In the last week, the Jewish community in San Diego has raised more than $30,000 for hurricane relief in the aftermath of the devastation in Texas. The Jewish Federation of San Diego County, along with Jewish Federations across North America are raising funds to support communities in need. Thanks to the power of Federation, 100% of donations go to the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund.
To aid in that effort, Israeli Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett generated headlines in Hebrew and English yesterday by posting an appeal on his Facebook page to give money to the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston. As of noon today, JFNA has raised$444,957.65 from 4,042 donors, and we know that the fundraising efforts of our communities and their emergency allocations have pushed the overall result to seven figures.
Yesterday we began work to convene JVOAD, the network of disaster response organizations that helped coordinate the overall Jewish response to Hurricane Karina (2005) and Superstorm Sandy (2012). In this role, our focus is on maximizing resources and minimizing duplication of effort.
JFNA’s Emergency Committee is convening 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.