• Moshe Alfisher for The Jewish Agency for Israel
Jewish Social Action

Helping in Houston

The Jewish Agency sent a delegation to Houston to help provide crucial and immediate relief for families and institutions that suffered from Hurricane Harvey

“We were all horrified when David told us how he and his wife had to wait 12 hours in water up to their waists for a rescue,” recounts Moshe Alfisher during the first day of his visit to flood-stricken Houston. “The sights are shocking. Piles and piles of home belongings are thrown along the curbs. Furniture, clothes, carpets and many other things that were inside people houses and were ruined by the flood.”

Alfisher, the western U.S. coordinator for the Jewish Agency/Hillel International Israel Fellows program, is part of a delegation from The Jewish Agency for Israel sent to Houston to take part in providing crucial and immediate relief for families and institutions that suffered from severe flooding in America’s fourth-largest city.

“We arrived to Houston on Sept. 4 and went directly to the Jewish Federation building, where we were assigned to help at the house of an elderly couple, Sarah and Uri,” said Alfisher. “At Sarah and Uri’s home, we helped with packing the valuables that were rescued and with throwing away the many things the water destroyed. It was very sad to go over belongings of people that could have been our grandparents, and to decide what should be thrown away and what could be saved. Every photo album and picture told a story about this family’s life, making this work harder and very emotional.”

The Jewish Agency’s relief delegation thus far in Houston includes Tal Lipschitz, regional director to the western U.S.; Alfisher; Amit David, the Israel Fellow at UCLA Hillel; Hagit Ojalvo, the Israel Fellow at Greater Portland Hillel; Shmuel Abramov, the Israel Fellow at Orange County Hillel; and Hadas Perets, the Israel Fellow at Santa Cruz Hillel.

According to the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston, 71 percent of the city’s Jewish population of 63,700 lives in areas that are prone to significant flooding. While the local community is still in the process of assessing the full extent of the damage inflicted by Hurricane Harvey, the storm was by far the gravest flooding event for a Jewish community that already experienced major floods in April 2016 and May 2015. The 2015 flood damaged about 500 Jewish homes and three synagogues in the Houston area. After Harvey, many Jewish families are now displaced from their flooded homes for the third time in three years.

While reflecting on the relief work, The Jewish Agency representatives realized “how family and friends are the most important things, more than any other objects,” according to Alfisher. “We have the privilege as Israelis to be here for a community of people who extend a hand to Israel as a matter of course. Now they are seeing that we are here to help them in return.”

The Jewish Agency’s assistance in Houston falls in line with the organization’s mission “to serve as the main link between the Jewish state and Jewish communities everywhere,” and to “address the Jewish People’s greatest challenges in every generation.” This includes close partnerships with Jewish Federation communities across North America, including in Houston. The Jewish Agency stands with Houston during this difficult time, as the city’s strong and vibrant Jewish community deals with this challenge.

 

08 Sep 2017 / 17 Elul 5777 0
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