With school back in session and work schedules returning to normal, summer is at least unofficially over. Sadly, however, these are not normal times.
Our continent is currently experiencing terrible (natural and man-made) disasters. The fires burning in the Gorge and elsewhere in Oregon are devastating (click here to support local organizations supporting the impacted communities). The potential impact of Hurricane Irma so soon on the heels of Harvey (here is an amazing story of a Jewish family in St. Martin who found shelter in the mikvah when Hurricane Irma hit the island). Last night’s 8.1 magnitude earthquake in Mexico, their largest in 100 years. I do not recall so many things happening all at the same time.
It is good, however, to see that the rebuilding efforts have already begun in the Houston area. To date, our community has raised over $36,000 for these relief efforts (100% of all funds raised immediately are sent). We have even been blessed with generous donations for the Oregon fires from former Portlanders now living in Seattle and Northern California. Thank you to everyone who has contributed to date. Unfortunately, with the current weather forecast, more support will be needed as Hurricane Irma makes landfall.
I want to share an update from a colleague in Houston:
The wreckage in Houston continues to reveal itself, and the realization that our community has been brutally shattered has become our new normal. Cleanup has begun in earnest in areas where it’s possible, but West Houston remains under water. 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.
Raised and Allocated
To date, Jewish Federations across America have raised nearly $7.8 million for Hurricane Harvey relief and funds are being allocated to address the following priorities:
• Immediate cash grants for flood victims’ essential needs
• Extended day-camp programming to make up for delayed school opening
• Expanding capacity of Jewish Family Services to allow them to provide one-stop, comprehensive assistance
• Grants to rabbis’ discretionary funds to meet acute congregational needs
• Funds to the Hebrew Free Loan Association that will match resources from Cleveland, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco to create a new Hurricane Harvey loan pool
The Houston Jewish Federation’s flood committee is meeting again next week to allocate additional funds as the requirements of the community become more apparent. They will also address further financial assistance needs that are designed to strengthen local agency capacity. The committee will also help flooded synagogues find temporary locations for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
You can get further updates from the Jewish Herald-Voice in Houston.
We are that time of year when we begin our annual campaign, now known as the Campaign for Community Needs. Next week will begin the campaign and our annual 100 Days of Impact where we strive to raise 95% of our campaign total by December 31. We hope you will continue to support our efforts to enrich and strengthen Jewish life here and abroad.
I am excited to share about the forthcoming year from the Jewish Federation. There are many tremendous upcoming events:
• The Cornerstone Dinner at the end of September for our major donor supporters features Rabbi Joseph Telushkin.
• Women’s Philanthropy Impact (open to all women) hosts documentary filmmaker and writer, Nancy Spielberg, on October 26.
• Our Community Gala celebration is on November 30. “Belly Laughs” presents Israeli comic Joel Chasnoff and renowned chef, Einat Admony, owner of Balaboosta in New York City. It will be an evening of great food and humor.
We’re delighted to share our Annual Report spotlighting our incredible successes and achievements of the past year.
On a national policy note, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA), of which our local Jewish Community Relations Council is an affiliate, made a statement opposing the Administration’s decision to repeal the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, revoking protections for nearly 800,000 people who are now at risk of deportation and separation from their families.
Since 2012, the DACA program has enabled eligible undocumented young people brought to this country as children to voluntarily come forward and pass background checks in exchange for permission to live and work in America without fear of deportation. Ending this protection will inflict needless suffering, separating families and costing our national economy an estimated $460 billion over the next decade.
The Jewish community has a long history of active engagement in supporting new immigrants and developing our nation’s immigration policy. We believe that Congress must enact a permanent solution and we call on lawmakers to act immediately to protect immigrant youth by passing the “Dream Act of 2017,” bipartisan legislation that would replace fear and uncertainty with permanent protection.
“Our government made a promise to protect these young people who were brought to this country as children, who know no other country but the United States, and who seek only to live and work without fear,” said David Bernstein, President and CEO of JCPA. “It is both our civic and moral duty to uphold that promise.”
We will continue to monitor this issue and the Jewish community will be vigilant in its efforts.
Shabbat shalom and let’s send our thoughts and prayers to those in the path of Hurricane Irma.