Nascent Leadership Coalition for Jewish Service Working with Jewish Federation of Greater Houston in Hurricane Harvey Relief
A new coalition of national Jewish organizations, including BBYO, Hillel International, JDC Entwine, Moishe House, OneTable, Repair the World and the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, has issued a call to Jewish community organizations across the U.S. to send groups to support the still-urgent recovery needs in Houston following the devastation of Hurricane Harvey five months ago.
The Leadership Coalition for Jewish Service has partnered with the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston on #ActNowHouston, placing recruited volunteer groups within ongoing recovery work coordinated by on-the-ground national and local agencies. #ActNowHouston organizers expect the thousands of mobilized volunteers will aid some of the most vulnerable and underserved communities in the city.
“The need for recovery support remains massive, and Hillel is committed to working with our partners to mobilize the national Jewish community to meet needs across Houston’s Jewish and larger community. It is a key part of our commitment to engaging students in tikkun olam,” says Eric Fingerhut, CEO of Hillel International, a Coalition partner.
Hurricane Harvey dumped more than four feet of rain on Houston over four days in August. The devastation resulted in nearly 200,000 homes flooded, including more than 2,000 of Houston’s 26,000 Jewish households, and the closure of entire residential and commercial sectors of the city. Now, the ongoing and emotional strain is mounting for the thousands of Houston families that remain in temporary housing and nonprofit organizations either shut down or operating under severe constraints.
Avital Ingber, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston, said, “Hurricane Harvey brought unprecedented destruction to Houston, and the Jewish community was hit especially hard. The solidarity and partnership we have experienced with Jewish organizations across the country has been energizing and revitalizing. While full recovery is expected to take years, our partnership with Act Now Houston expedites this critical work.”
Since the Hurricane struck in August, hundreds of volunteers from Jewish communities across the country have self-mobilized and headed to Houston to offer their service. Organizers expect #ActNowHouston will help extend national awareness of the tremendous need in Houston and lower the costs and difficulty of serving, thereby bolstering the numbers of volunteer groups able to serve.
Matt Grossman, CEO of BBYO, said, “We know young Jews across the country are passionate about taking into their own hands the challenge of meeting important needs in our society. The power of our community can be seen in our collective ability to provide opportunities for hundreds of groups and thousands of volunteers to serve that passion in Houston.”
Volunteer groups will help remove damaged household items and sanitize homes; package food and deliver essentials to the elderly or homebound; work with individuals coping with ongoing hardship; assist local residents in navigating available resources; and help families get back on their feet through the rebuilding process. Coalition partners, the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston and local Houston Jewish organizations and educators will ensure that each group connects with customized, high-quality contextual education about the impact of Harvey and the Jewish values that are driving the work.
Program Manager Sacha Bodner, a Repair the World staff member, works in partnership with the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston to coordinate Houston’s Jewish service efforts. Bodner shared his thoughts on the importance of the program. “We have amazing local nonprofit and disaster response organizations on the ground who understand the ongoing needs. They are working diligently to make sure the visiting service groups and local volunteers have the opportunity to make a real impact for Houston. We know that additional groups are needed – and, working together, the Coalition, the Federation and our local community will ensure that the Houston experience is deep and meaningful for every group.”
Tentatively titled the Leadership Coalition for Jewish Service, the coalition is under formation. Inaugural partners are BBYO, Hillel International, JDC Entwine, Moishe House, OneTable, Repair the World and the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation. In addition to its mobilization for #ActNowHouston, the Coalition will support efforts that build the breadth and effectiveness of the Jewish service movement, especially calling attention to and lowering barriers for young Jews to participate in opportunities to make a difference. We welcome other organizations interested in joining our efforts to identify, support and promote well-programmed Jewish service opportunities with national reach. The Coalition is facilitated by Repair the World. The Coalition also is supported by the William Davidson Foundation, Marcus Foundation, and Jim Joseph Foundation.