Critical Update on Hurricane Harvey


A Message from Arlene Miller, President & CEO


As Florida and the eastern seaboard prepare for Hurricane Irma, the second catastrophic storm to hit the U.S. this season, we are preparing to offer support to any impacted communities. As part of Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), we are there in times of crisis when you need us most. As we have done in Texas over the past week since Hurricane Harvey, our network of local partners enables us to respond quickly and effectively. We fund urgently needed basics like food and medicine, and support long-term needs like trauma counseling. We are there to help – and to rebuild.

Here’s where things now stand in Texas: More than 70% of the Jewish community lives in parts of the city that were badly flooded, and that includes nearly 12,000 Jewish elderly. The start of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is now less than two weeks away and flooded synagogues are scrambling to find places to hold services. The central area of the sprawling Houston region is in the “mucking out phase” (clearing out furnishings and damaged plaster). None of it can be removed from in front of a house until insurance adjusters and FEMA representatives have come to verify the damage. Other parts of Houston are still under water and inaccessible. For that reason we don’t have much information about the damage to the four congregations and JCC annex located in West Houston because they are still inaccessible. 

Raised and Allocated: Jewish Federation donations continue to come in. To date, Jewish Federations have raised nearly $7.8M for Hurricane Harvey relief. Donations collected from more than 240 Orange County community members represents over $36,000 of that total. $1.6M was allocated to address the following priorities: cash assistance to flood victims (distributed through the local Jewish Family Service), extended day camp for programs that provide safe places for children, grants to rabbis for congregant families in need, and a grant to the Houston Hebrew Free Loan Association to supplement a loan pool for hurricane-specific needs, matching dollars pledged by four other large Hebrew Free Loan Associations. 

Logistical Challenges: The JCC is no longer serving as a distribution center so there is no longer a mechanism for managing donations of physical items. In-kind donations should be sent to the United Way of Greater Houston. There are many volunteer efforts throughout the Houston area and within the Jewish community. Outside groups are starting to show up but getting volunteers and supplies to where they’re needed is difficult and in some cases impossible; housing and feeding them is also a challenge. With generous support from the Taube Philanthropies (based in San Francisco) we are now working with All Hands,  a group that focuses on addressing the immediate and long-term needs of communities impacted by natural disasters by leveraging volunteers. To volunteer call 800-820-5188 or email

Gearing Up for What Comes Next: We anticipate the greatest upcoming needs to include the following –

  • Relief for communal workers (day school faculty, human service agency personnel, clergy, etc.) hit by flooding balance their work and personal crises;
  • Repair of major communal facilities that have experienced major damage including the JCC, Seven Acres nursing home, Beth Yeshurun day school, TORCH Centre and three synagogues;
  • Mental health support to families that have now been flooded two or three times in less than three years
  • Assistance for victims who have been displaced and require temporary housing, transportation, legal services, etc. 

Please, help us to help the victims of Hurricane Harvey. DONATE TODAY. 100% of your donation will go directly to our relief efforts. Cash donations remain one of the most compassionate ways you can help. It enables relief organizations like JFNA to work with local partners to assess needs and respond most effectively and most efficiently. 

While my heart remains with those still struggling in Houston, my thoughts are also with those who may be impacted by Hurricane Irma this weekend. May all of the people and communities affected by these storms feel our love and compassion. And may they find deep and sustaining courage to get through these most challenging days.

Shabbat Shalom,

 Alene Millier

 Arlene Miller



Jewish Federation & Family ServicesMission Statement: We care for people in need and strengthen Jewish community in Orange County, Israel, and around the world.




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