Houston Jewish community ‘impacted’ by Hurricane Harvey
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Houston Jewish community ‘impacted’ by Hurricane Harvey

Severe flooding hits Jewish areas, forcing evacuations, cancellation of synagogue services and education programs

A family evacuates their Meyerland home in Houston, August 27, 2017. (Mark Mulligan/Houston Chronicle via AP)
A family evacuates their Meyerland home in Houston, August 27, 2017. (Mark Mulligan/Houston Chronicle via AP)

The Jewish community of Houston was hit hard when Hurricane Harvey bombarded the city on Saturday and Sunday, causing massive flooding and killing at least six people.

“Parts of our community have been impacted by the severe weather of the past two days,” the Jewish Federation of Houston posted Sunday morning on Facebook.

“We are working with our partner agencies to assess the current situation in our community and determine priority on action items. We will communicate out as soon as we know how best to move forward in the short and long-term,” the organization wrote.

The post did not specify what in the Jewish community had been damaged.

Parts of our community have been impacted by the severe weather of the past two days. We are working with our partner…

Posted by Jewish Federation of Greater Houston on Sunday, 27 August 2017

Prior to the onset of the hurricane, the Federation wrote on its website that it was “preparing to mobilize a community response to Hurricane Harvey in the event it is necessary… We are here to help manage the recovery, as needed.”

The Federation said it had met with Jewish Family Service, the Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center, and Seven Acres to spearhead a community-wide recovery response.

The Houston JCC announced on Facebook that it would close on Friday and remain closed Sunday, with an update Sunday evening. Prior to the hurricane, it collected emergency supplies for the community including bottled water, work gloves, packing supplies, plastic storage bins, heavy garbage bags, heavy-duty razor blades to rip out wet and damaged carpet, cleaning supplies and gift cards for home repair stores and grocery stores, according to the Texas Jewish Herald-Voice.

An abandoned vehicle sits in flood waters on the I-10 highway in Houston, Texas, Sunday, Aug. 27, 2017. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
An abandoned vehicle sits in flood waters on the I-10 highway in Houston, Texas, August 27, 2017. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

The newspaper reported that homes in heavily Jewish populated Houston subdivisions, including Meyerland, were reporting flooding Sunday morning, for the third time in as many years.

“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,” Rabbi Chaim Lazaroff of Houston told Chabad Org. He and his wife, Chanie, are co-directors of Chabad of Uptown in the Meyerland area. “The rain is not stopping,” he said.

Chanie Lazaroff added, “There is a lot of tension, and the hard part is that it’s far from over. There’s a lot of rain coming, and safety is the most important thing.”

A family evacuates their Meyerland home in Houston, Sunday, Aug. 27, 2017. (Mark Mulligan/Houston Chronicle via AP)
A family evacuates their Meyerland home in Houston, August 27, 2017. (Mark Mulligan/ Houston Chronicle via AP)

Elsewhere in the Meyerland area, Amy Goldstein told Houston’s Jewish Herald Voice that she had several inches of water in her home.

“I’m on the kitchen counter right now with my daughter and our cats,” Goldstein said. “We’re stuck.”

Even though she is a leader of an emergency response team, she said that she had not made preparations for herself and her family.

“Right now, I need a boat,” she said. “It’s ironic being on a team doing all this rescue, yet I didn’t have everything together for myself.”

Another leader of a volunteer emergency response team, Jenelle Garner, told the news site that people were not prepared for the extent of the flooding.

“People who have never flooded before are flooding now,” she said. “It’s really bad here, we might be forced to leave also. This is the first time I would ever think about leaving.”

A special Sunday SAT testing to accommodate Shabbat-observant high school students at the Robert M Beren Academy Orthodox Jewish day school was canceled in anticipation of the hurricane.

Residents sit on a fence surrounded by floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey on Sunday, Aug. 27, 2017, in Houston, Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Residents sit on a fence surrounded by floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey on August 27, 2017, in Houston, Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

The hurricane first made landfall on Friday evening near Corpus Christi, Texas, about 200 miles southwest of Houston.

The Jewish Community Center of Corpus Christi was closed Friday and Sunday, and said in a Facebook post it hoped to resume normal operations on Monday.

Congregation Beth Israel in Corpus Christi closed from Friday, canceling all Shabbat services and Torah studies, it said in a Facebook post.

Posted by Congregation Beth Israel – Corpus Christi, Tx on Thursday, 24 August 2017

Harvey, now a tropical storm, is expected to continue to drop torrential rains and catastrophic flooding on the region for the coming days, according to the National Hurricane Center. Some 15 to 30 inches of rain are expected in the Houston area, South Texas and parts of Louisiana. Thousands remain without power.

“This rain will lead to a prolonged, dangerous, and potentially catastrophic flooding event well into next week,” the National Weather Service said.

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