Jewish Communities Around the World Come Together to Support Hurricane Relief After Harvey


Ayelet Schuster

As Hurricane Harvey flooded Houston between Aug. 25 – Sept. 1 with up to 50 inches of rain and 130 mile per hour winds, synagogues and Jewish communities were destroyed. Jewish communities all over the world have come together to support victims of the hurricane.

Throughout Houston, buildings were flooded, trees were uprooted, and homes were destroyed, leaving families throughout the community in distress. In order to help families left homeless after the storm, Camp Young Judaea – Texas and URJ Greene Family Camp have opened their facilities to house members of the Jewish community. Loui Dobin, executive director of URJ Greene Family Camp, realized that the camp facilities were not being filled up with families because families were not able to leave Houston. He felt that he should help the community in some other way directly in Houston.

In an effort to help families begin to rebuild their lives, the Hurricane Harvey Houston Day Camp was founded. Congregation Emanu El in Houston is running the camp for children of all ages for eight hours a day so that their parents can get back on their feet.

“By the time families could leave Houston…you just couldn’t get out of the city” said Dobin. “Instead of saying ‘oh well, nobody’s coming,’ we said: ‘what can we do that would be really useful?’… We realized what people really needed… was someone to watch their kids so that they could take care of business… and know that for 8 hours every day their kids were taken care of. So we decided that that’s what we were gonna do.”

Creating the camp was a community effort. Greene Family Camp, Congregation Emanu El, and the Jewish Community Center of Houston worked together to organize and run the camp. Each camper is provided with 3 meals a day, and parents are each provided with breakfast and dinner. The camp keeps the kids occupied in order for parents to be able to work with insurance companies, find places to live, and recover from the storm.

“This is what it looks like when a community comes together, it feels really good” said Rabbi Oren Hayon, Senior Rabbi of Congregation Emanu El. “Recovery is going to take a lot longer, we’re not done… it feels really good to know this community… comes together when we need to help each other.”

Families sit and eat together at the day camp in Houston. Photo courtesy of Emanu El Facebook

Running the day camp has been a community effort. People from all different denominations of Judaism have volunteered to help run the camp. “This is a Jewish community at large project” said Dobin. “We have people from every single synagogue in town.”