Want to keep in the loop on the latest happenings at Judaism in Houston, Texas. Subscribe to our mailing list below. We'll send you information that is fresh, relevant, and important to you and our local community.
Printed fromChabadHouston.com
ב"ה

As Toll Mounts in Sodden Houston, Jewish Community Pitches In to Help Neighbors

Friday, 29 May, 2015 - 10:32 am

By Faygie Levy for Chabad.org

From teens to groups of adults, lending a hand, big and small, to people drying out from the flood

 

Parts of Houston are drying out after major flooding earlier this week, with Jewish volunteers helping affected residents move damaged furniture and other belongings outside their houses.
Parts of Houston are drying out after major flooding earlier this week, with Jewish volunteers helping affected residents move damaged furniture and other belongings outside their houses.

Days after torrential rains caused massive flooding in Houston, the true toll in terms of lives lost and property destroyed continues to mount. Sadly, that includes an elderly Jewish couple who perished when the rescue boat they were in capsized.

Jack and Shirley Alter, both in their 80s, and their 55-year-old daughter were being rescued from their home on Tuesday when the boat they were in capsized. The Alters were swept away in the water, while their daughter made it to safety. The couple was married for 63 years.

In terms of the area that was affected, the recovery is now underway. For many, it will be a long haul. Those who were fortunate enough to have been spared are pitching in to aid their neighbors in whatever ways they can.

On Thursday evening, more than a dozen teenagers gathered at the Shul of Bellaire, a city in the Houston metropolitan area, for a CTeen program. Like most Chabad teen programs, they were going to participate in a community-service project at the synagogue, which is located a mile from where much of the flooding occurred.

This time, however, the teens headed out to the hardest-hit part of the city to help Jewish families remove debris and other damaged items from their homes.

“We were actually supposed to have a CTeen event on Tuesday [the day of the flood], but we postponed it because no one was in the mindset to get together, and some of the teens had a little damage in their own homes,” explains Rabbi Yossi Zaklikofsky, co-director of the Shul of Bellaire with his wife, Esty.

He says the response by the teens was more than positive; they were willing and able.

“I see an added enthusiasm from them knowing they have an opportunity to make a difference in the life of a family directly affected by the flood,” says Zaklikofsky. “There are even some teens who are not regular attendees who have reached out and told me they were coming.”

Ron and Revital Mart saw water reach more than a foot high in their home.
Ron and Revital Mart saw water reach more than a foot high in their home.

The young helpers spent two hours cleaning, removing damaged items and re-organizing the home of Rabbi Joseph Radinsky, rabbi emeritus of United Orthodox Synagogues of Houston, whose home and synagogue were both badly damaged. The rabbi himself was taken to safety by boat on Tuesday.

Other Jewish institutions that were damaged in the flood include the MeyerlandMinyan synagogue, the Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center’s Merfish Teen Center and several kosher businesses, including Saba’s Kosher Kitchen and Three Brothers Bakery.

‘Volunteers Have Been Amazing’

For the second day in a row, a group from Chabad of Uptown spent several hours assisting people affected by the flood.

Some have been bagging up wet clothing and washing laundry for the displaced; others have been moving water-damaged furniture outside homes and onto lawns and sidewalks; and still others are hard at work finding temporary foster homes for pets, whose owners can’t care for them right now.

The CTeen Shul of Bellaire group spent two hours cleaning, removing damaged items and helping re-organize the home of Rabbi Joseph Radinsky, rabbi emeritus of United Orthodox Synagogues.
The CTeen Shul of Bellaire group spent two hours cleaning, removing damaged items and helping re-organize the home of Rabbi Joseph Radinsky, rabbi emeritus of United Orthodox Synagogues.

Many have asked via social media what they can do—by purchasing toiletries and small household items for families, for example. One posting said that a set of boys was in need of tzitzit; another man requested replacement tefillin.

“The volunteers have been amazing. They are working nonstop until they drop,” says Rabbi Chaim Lazaroff, co-director of Chabad of Uptown with his wife, Chanie. “And it’s not just the big things; sometimes, it’s small things, like helping dry family photos.”

Indeed, one of the Uptown Chabad volunteers decided to turn a closet door into a drying station for a family’s precious photos.

Toys and baby items floated in the deep water that seeped into the Mart household.
Toys and baby items floated in the deep water that seeped into the Mart household.

Summing up the community-wide efforts, Zaklikofsky says “it takes a situation like this to see how special humanity is and how amazing a community can be.

“If you follow Facebook, the destruction is right there; you see pictures of a living room that’s been destroyed,” the rabbi continues. “But on that same Facebook page, you see hundreds of people offering help of any kind. It’s always uplifting to see that.”

Displaced Families Maintain Positive Spirit

Intense storms overnight on Monday led to massive flooding in parts of the Houston area, with more than eight inches of rain falling in some places and as much as 12 in others. Brays Bayou overran its banks, flooding an area of the city called Meyerland, where there is a long-established Jewish population. Also heavily damaged was the Willow Meadows neighborhood. Thousands of residents have been displaced as homes and cars were destroyed in the flooding.

The floodwaters rose to reach the crib of the Marts' two small children.
The floodwaters rose to reach the crib of the Marts' two small children.

Among them is the Mart family. Ron Mart, his wife Revital and their two young children were asleep early Tuesday morning when they heard a steady dripping. Revital Mart put her feet on the floor and stepped into several inches of water.

They spent much of Tuesday trying to keep whatever they could—particularly electrical items—out of water while keeping their children, ages 1 and 2, calm and safe.

“This was not normal,” says Ron Mart. “We weren’t expecting this. My neighbors have lived here 50 years and said they’ve never seen anything like this.”

At one point, the water reached more than a foot high, destroying everything in its path—the sheetrock on the walls, the couches, coffee table, photos, books and more. Their house is currently unlivable, and the couple, who frequent Chabad Uptown, is now staying with friends.

“We always have Shabbat at our house and invite people over; we have eight, 10 people, and are always hosting Friday-night dinner. It’s a great experience, and we love it,” says Mart. “So we’ll have to do something this Shabbat to bring some sense of normalcy. Maybe we’ll have to recruit one of our friends to host this time.”

CTeen volunteers take a mattress out to dry in the Meyerland neighborhood, which was hard-hit by rising water.
CTeen volunteers take a mattress out to dry in the Meyerland neighborhood, which was hard-hit by rising water.
Other young volunteers lift a sofa to remove it from a home.
Other young volunteers lift a sofa to remove it from a home.
Removing all kinds of furniture, this one a glass piece; the floors show dirt and damage from the floodwaters.
Removing all kinds of furniture, this one a glass piece; the floors show dirt and damage from the floodwaters.

 

 

 

Comments on: As Toll Mounts in Sodden Houston, Jewish Community Pitches In to Help Neighbors
There are no comments.