Flooding that began on the 2nd day of the Shavuot holiday this week and continued the next day has damaged a Houston synagogue, a temple, and dozens of Jewish family homes in the southern city.
Local and nationwide Jewish organizations are raising funds for the flood-bashed Jewish community. B’nai B’rith International and the Orthodox Union (OU) are apparently the first nationwide Jewish organizations to pitch in. "The Jewish community of Houston needs our help," the OU stated in a Thursday announcement, "to recover from severe floods that began on the second day of Shavuot and caused devastating damage."
The hardest-hit neighborhoods in the flood were Meyerland, Bellaire, and Willow Meadows, the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston (JFGH) announced, adding that in these places, "so many in our community have lost everything.”
Exact numbers are hard to come by, but "the homes of many of the 40,000 Jews who call Houston home are presently unlivable," according to the OU.
JFGH began raising flood-relief funds in the city earlier this week, and other Jewish Federations around the country also began campaigns.
Torrential rains on Monday and Tuesday inundated several of the canals (bayous) that crisscross the city, and their overflow was catastrophic. Nineteen people were killed, cars were swept away, and buildings were flooded with up to four feet of water. Heavy rainfall over the last few weeks had saturated the ground, leaving it unable to absorb the 8-12 inches that poured down this week.
The United Orthodox Synagogue was filled with "water in every area of the shul," Rabbi Barry Gelman said, including the main sanctuary, the social hall, the school wing, and administrative offices. No Torah scrolls were damaged. The homes of many members are expected to be unlivable for months to come.
Once the rain finally stopped, United Orthodox crews of volunteers went from house to house with canoes and rafts to rescue elderly residents and others.