From the desk of the Executive Vice President of Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA):
"JFNA’s Emergency Committee, and many of our Federations on the front lines of addressing natural disasters, have had an extraordinarily busy and taxing eight weeks since the start of Hurricane Harvey. We thank all of our Federations and Network communities who have worked to mobilize support and resources through our Jewish Federation system in addressing the many urgent needs arising from these disasters.
Following is an update on the work of our system to date:
Seven weeks following the end of the rain, Houston and the other areas affected by Hurricane Harvey are still in fairly early stages of recovery. With more than 2,000 Jewish homes flooded, and 8 major institutional facilities in the Jewish community sustaining catastrophic damage, the scope of issues facing the Houston Jewish community are enormous.
To date approximately $17.9M has been raised through the Jewish Federation system, as follows:
- $6.5M raised by Jewish Federations across North America
- $9.1M raised by the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston
- $1.3M contributed by Jewish Foundations (does not include foundation grants to local Federations or the Houston Federation, which are incorporated in the figures above)
- $1M committed by the Government of Israel
Of this amount, over $12M has been allocated through the Houston Federation and the national Emergency Committee process to provide direct relief to flood victims (trauma counseling, case management and financial assistance), to help these individuals and families to stay connected to Jewish life and community, and to address institutional sustainability and repair issues. The focus of the Jewish Federations’ national funding is primarily in the area of relief to flood victims. While the primary focus is on the enormous impact of the flood in Houston, our Emergency Committee has also worked with the small communities in Galveston and Beaumont to assist those communities.
JFNA’s Emergency Committee is meeting again during the week of October 30 to consider a significant further allocation of national funds.
Hurricanes Irma and Maria
The impact on mainland Florida from Hurricane Irma was less severe than anticipated, especially for the larger concentrations of Jewish population on Florida’s east coast. While the larger communities in South Florida (Miami, Broward County, South Palm Beach and Palm Beach) were generally able to address the issues in their own communities and extend assistance to other communities, there was heavier impact on some of the smaller communities further north (Collier County, Jacksonville, and St. Augustine). A unique role was fulfilled by Chabad across numerous Florida communities in providing congregate and home-delivered meals to seniors and others affected by prolonged power outages.
The biggest impact of these storms have been felt in the islands off the coast of Florida, within and beyond the U.S. border — Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Florida Keys, Cuba, and others. The national Emergency Committee has focused on the U.S. communities affected, while our partner, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, is supporting Cuba and other island nations. The major focus of our efforts has been in Puerto Rico and St. Thomas, which are both characterized by small Jewish communities deeply affected amidst a sea of misery well-documented in the news media.
None of these communities have communal infrastructure beyond individual synagogues and our support has primarily been directly to affected individuals through the various congregations, and supporting the work of IsraAID and the AFYA Foundation, who are providing humanitarian assistance to the Jewish communities and on a significant non-sectarian basis.
As several of our large Federations are working directly with partners in their own communities or international aid organizations with which they have relationships, the financial information that follows reflects only the funds remitted to JFNA:
Funds Remitted to date in response to Hurricanes Irma/Maria: $900,000
Mainland Florida Communities:
- Jewish Federation of Broward County: $20,000
- Chabad of Broward County: $50,000
- Collier County Jewish Federation: $45,000
- Jacksonville Jewish Federation: $20,000
- Pinellas County: $25,000
- Key West congregations: $30,000
- Puerto Rico congregations: $135,000
- St. Thomas congregations: $75,000
- IsraAID in Puerto Rico: $80,000
- AFYA Foundation: $50,000
In addition to these funds, with the financial support of UJA Federation of New York, JFNA was able to acquire and deliver 212 urgently needed generators to Jewish communities in Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, and the Keys for distribution to members of the Jewish community and others in need. Several of our Federations, most notably New York, Miami, Broward, and South Palm Beach have all been engaged in direct relief efforts in the island communities which are not reflected in these numbers.
At its meeting next week, JFNA’s Emergency Committee will be considering further allocations.
North Bay Fires in California
The most recent focus of disaster relief efforts has been in response to the extensive wildfires in Napa and Sonoma counties in California. Over the period it took to get the fires contained, a very extensive area was devastated by the fires, resulting in the loss of 7,000.
Within the Jewish community, dozens of Jewish homes were destroyed by fire, and URJ’s Camp Newman was also largely destroyed. The Jewish Federation of San Francisco, The Peninsula, Marin, and Sonoma Counties and the Jewish Federation of the East Bay Jewish Federation partnered together to create the North Bay Wildfire Relief Fund, and have coordinated their relief efforts during and in the immediate aftermath of the fires. JFNA has not established a separate national fund and encourages all Federations to direct relief funds to the joint fund established by the Bay Area federations. For more information, click here."