When over 11 inches of rain fell in Houston last week, cars were swept away and the southeast Texas metropolis was brought to a standstill. Many of the 40,000 Jews who live there lost everything in the torrential rains and flooding. Hardest hit were the areas of Meyerland, Bellaire and Willow Meadows, where many Jews live and countless homes and businesses were inundated, along with two synagogues.
Numerous residents had to be evacuated by watercraft, including a rabbi emeritus from United Orthodox Synagogues of Houston, one of the two synagogues that suffered damage. The other damaged synagogue was the Reform temple Congregation Beth Israel.
Houston’s JCC also said two of its properties were flooded, including the Merfish Teen Center, which will require new flooring, and racquetball courts and a preschool gym at the JCC’s Levit campus.
According to United Orthodox’s current rabbi, there was water in every area of the shul – the main sanctuary, the social hall, the school wing, administrative offices. Luckily their Torahs were higher so they were not affected. Gelman was among those who had to flee his home during the rains as floodwaters rose.
“Almost every house in this neighborhood sustained serious flood damages — from 6-8 inches to 3-4 feet of water in every house,” Gelman said. “This will keep many people out of their homes for months. Amid all of this destruction, which is devastating, there is an incredible sense of unity and hope. The most important thing is no one got hurt.”
According to CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston, Lee Wunsch, Jewish Family Service of Houston would be the point of contact for community members requiring short-term housing or support until their homeowners insurance kicks in.
While recovery and rebuilding will take many months, you can help the Jews of Houston by contributing to the flood relief fund established by The Jewish Federation of Greater Houston.