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October 4, 2015 | 21st Tishrei 5776
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Hurricanes 2008

The Union for Reform Judaism opened its Hurricane Disaster Relief Fund to help the victims of the devastating hurricanes that hit the Gulf Coast. When Gustav approached the Gulf Coast, the URJ Jacobs Camp opened its doors to about 200 evacuees. Then, as Ike aimed for the Gulf Coast of Texas, the URJ Greene Family Camp became a Red Cross Evacuation Center for 700 people fleeing the Texas coast communities. Contributions may be made online or mailed to

Hurricane Disaster Relief
Union for Reform Judaism
633 Third Ave.
New York, NY 10017

At the end of August 2008, Hurricane Gustav hit the Western Caribbean and U.S. Gulf States causing serious damage, over a hundred deaths and at least $8.3 billion in damages. Less than two weeks later, a second hurricane, Ike, made a direct hit on Galveston and Houston. The storm surge preceded the hurricane, flooding the city of Galveston and causing tremendous damage to offices and homes throughout the region. Ike has been blamed for over 160 deaths, with over 200 still missing. Damages from Ike in the U.S. alone are estimated at $27 billion, with billions more in Cuba and the Bahamas. Ike was the third costliest U.S. hurricane of all time (behind Hurricane Andrew of 1992 and Hurricane Katrina of 2005.

To date the Union for Reform Judaism has made the following relief allocations:

Southern Mutual Help: $12,000
Southern Mutual Help Association (SMHA) helps people develop strong, healthy, prosperous rural communities in Louisiana, particularly in distressed rural communities whose livelihoods are interdependent with land and waters. It works primarily with agricultural and pervasively poor communities, women and people of color. The URJ has supported this worthy organization in the past through its Katrina relief efforts. But now, Hurricanes Gustav and Ike teamed up to deal another major blow to Louisiana’s Coastal rural communities. This grant would help Southern Mutual Help provide support to fishing families whose lives are particularly impacted. In 2005 families in Cameron Parish were swept away by Hurricane Rita. They lost their boats and their homes. But they worked hard to find and rebuild boats and locate land and homes at least 30 miles north. Then along came Ike on September 12, 2008. This time fisher families took their boats to safe harbor then followed the parish’s mandatory evacuation to northern Louisiana and even Arkansas. But Ike had surged inland 30-40 miles. Now, many fisher families are struggling to reclaim a water-damaged home or to start over even though they had moved inland 30 to 40 miles. Fisher families have a diversity of needs since Hurricane Ike: Boats need repairs. Homes need to be raised and/or repaired; furnishings and appliances need to be replaced.

Jewish Family Service of Houston: $12,000
In the Jewish community, the impact of Hurricane Ike was felt both in Houston and the coastal region near Galveston with damage to individual homes, synagogues and cemeteries. Jewish Family Service is the first responder for the community for such emergencies. Jewish Family Service is a United Way agency, focusing on mental health through counseling, senior adult services, financial aid and special needs. Approximately 30 % of our clients are not Jewish. After the initial assistance with moving seniors and the infirm and providing clean up help and basic food and medicine, the long term projects of recovery began.

A no interest loan program was established between Hebrew Free Loan, the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston and JFS to help those with large insurance deductibles; seniors were temporarily relocated from damaged HUD housing (primarily Russian and Asian residents); a case manager was placed in the coastal area where the most devastation occurred; Holocaust survivors needing specialized response received care, and ongoing financial aid disbursements were made for emergency purchases and repairs not covered by insurance or FEMA.

The most pressing need for ongoing Hurricane Relief is in the area of financial aid and they anticipate having financial aid expenditures of $30,000 - $50,000 in the next six months for those most impacted by Hurricane Ike. Their financial aid fund is currently depleted.

Nechama: $2,000
Nechama is the only Jewish organization in the country that specializes in natural disaster preparedness, cleanup assistance and public safety. In recent months Nechama launched “deployments” to Orange County in SE Texas, working mostly in the towns of Orange and Bridge City, partnering with Operation Blessing, which provided food and lodging for their teams. They provided much-needed assistance in a tiny, unincorporated town called Oak Island (roughly halfway between Beaumont and Houston), which is comprised mostly of fishermen. While there they cleaned out and sanitized the local church which was then used as the distribution point for food and other essential items, as well as work on over 20 homes.

Henry S. Jacobs Camp: $2,000
Greene Family Camp scholarships: $2,000
As we did following Hurricane Katrina, we will offer scholarship funds for families affected by the ‘08 hurricanes.


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