Update from National Team in Houston


On Friday, September 1, Mark Gurvis, Executive Vice President, Jewish Federations of North America, released the following brief on the situation in Houston and its effect on the Jewish community there. 

Yesterday afternoon the first national Federation ground team arrived in Houston and got to work supporting the local Federation and community. Their immediate focus is on building a comprehensive picture of needs, moving quickly on the highest priority issues, developing a system for the barrage of volunteers already descending on the city, etc…  I thought it would be helpful to you to share a quick update from our late night debriefing:
General impressions:
Spirits are generally high in the community.  Houston has been through floods before so they have a handle on what to do and a can-do attitude. But things are moving slowly as they are overwhelmed, exhausted.  There are pockets of amazing energy. The one functional space at the JCC, their tennis center, has been reorganized as a major collection and distribution center for donated goods and there is a steady stream of donations being dropped off - any kind of household goods that people might need – and a steady stream of people in need carrying stuff away. A major volunteer day is planned for Sunday to match people want to help muck out flooded houses with people who need that help.
Lee Wunsch, our colleague in Houston, was very emotional yesterday afternoon when we told him the first $500K in funds had been wired to their account.
Major problems already surfaced to address:
B’nai Jeshurun Conservative Day School Building Wiped Out - The major Conservative synagogue which also houses the day school is totaled.  The school is a total loss.  They are scrambling to find a place to relocate the school to open.  We are working with the community to identify alternative places to operate.
JCC Pre-School Badly Damaged – The JCC pre-school is in a similar situation and we are working here too to find an alternative place for them to open in a week.
Day Camps - Schools are not opening this week so there is a desire to extend the day camps that are operating now so kids have a place to be and parents can do what they need to do.  
Home Damage Assessment – We do not yet have a count on how many homes in the Jewish community were flooded. There are some distinctively Jewish neighborhoods that were very hard hit.  There is one Orthodox synagogue where 90% of the congregants have been flooded out. This is a crucial piece of info we’ll be trying to nail down over the next days.  
Annual campaign launch - They usually launch at the holidays.  It is not clear how much the local staff and leadership will be able to focus on this very much in the next few weeks.  We are identifying resources that can help make sure they can launch.
The costs are going to mount quickly beyond the kinds of funds we've raised so far. 

We have put a great team on the ground and they are already having a big impact!  In the next day or so we’ll have a handle on what kinds of resource people need to go in next and in the weeks beyond. Thanks to those of you who have already offered.



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