The devastation already experienced and still expected from Hurricane Irma, the second massive tropical storm to strike in less than two weeks, has prompted the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago to expand the Relief Fund it created in response to Hurricane Harvey.
The renamed Jewish Federation 2017 Hurricane Relief Fund now will support relief efforts in Florida and other areas -- in or outside the United States -- expected to be hit by Irma, as well as in Texas, where Harvey caused massive damage.
So far, more than 1,375 donors have contributed over $311,000 to the original Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund, which has been featured on "Where to Give" lists in USA Today and hundreds of other media outlets nationally. Those funds, which were specifically designated for Hurricane Harvey relief, will continue to support efforts in that region.
As always, the Federation will absorb all administrative costs, so that 100 percent of funds collected will provide relief for the thousands impacted by the disasters.
Contributions to the Jewish Federation 2017 Hurricane Relief Fund can be made online at www.juf.org/HurricaneRelief.
Donations also can be made via hotline, (312) 444-2869, or by sending a check payable to the Jewish Federation 2017 Hurricane Relief Fund to 30 S. Wells Street, #3015, Chicago, IL 60606.
The Chicago Federation is working closely with the Jewish Federations of North America, NECHAMA: Jewish Response to Disaster, and local Jewish communities impacted by or in the storms' path to quickly gauge and address specific needs of the Jewish and general communities.
In addition to the financial support Chicago's Jewish community is providing through Federation, JUF's TOV Volunteer Network is coordinating the first of several missions of volunteers that will head to Texas in September or October to provide hands-on help with the cleanup and rebuilding.
And 11 clinicians from Jewish Child & Family Services and Jewish Community Emergency Resiliency Team are staffing the Houston Jewish Family Service's "warmline" from Chicago. The phone line provides counseling and support to residents dealing with the emotional impact of the crisis.
Update on Houston hurricane relief efforts
The Houston Jewish community is resilient, but has endured three major floods in three years.
There are an estimated 76,000 Jews in Houston, and some 71 percent -- including nearly 12,000 elderly members -- live in areas that have seen massive flooding.
Reports indicate that 2,300 families have been impacted and 1,800 homes flooded by Hurricane Harvey.
Six major communal facilities in Houston have experienced major damage, including the JCC, Seven Acres nursing home, Beth Jeshurun day school, and three synagogues. In several cases, the damage is massive -- the Orthodox synagogue has to be leveled.
The congregations and JCC annex located in West Houston are still under water and inaccessible.
The assistance pouring in from the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago and sister federations across the country is providing invaluable. These funds are providing relief on the ground to the Houston Jewish community, including:
- Emergency cash assistance to flood victims;
- Grants to rabbis to assist congregant families in need; and
- Loans for impacted businesses.
The next steps focus on homes: removing water, mud, and furniture; ripping out drywall; and pulling out floorboards. The actual rebuilding and renovating comes in the months that follow.
In the coming weeks and months, support also will be needed to:
- Repair major communal facilities that have experience major damage;
- Offer mental health support and trauma counseling to families that have now been flooded two or three times in less than three years;
- Assist victims who have been displaced and require temporary housing, transportation, legal services, etc.; and
- Help relieve communal workers (day school faculty, human services agency personnel, clergy, etc.) who were themselves impacted by flooding and must balance their work and personal crises.