The past few days have been a trying and traumatic time for the whole of our congregational community as well as the entire city of Houston. I'm writing to share a few updates about Emanu El's response to the historic damage resulting from Hurricane Harvey, and to make you aware of some ways in which we can join together to give support and provide comfort as we all make our way forward together.
First, I want to share the latest information with you about Emanu El's cherished building. Unfortunately, the temple took on a small amount of water during the flooding, but we are optimistic that the damage will prove to have been minimal enough that our normal operations will not be compromised. We will, of course, keep you updated as further inspection and renovations continue.
We are so grateful that the building is safe and inhabitable, so our administrative offices at the synagogue will open for limited hours, from 10am to 4pm, for the rest of the week. Anyone who can do so safely is invited to spend time at Emanu El to dry out , charge electronics , connect to the internet, and have a hot cup of coffee . Clergy will also be on hand to provide a caring, supportive presence to anyone who may need a listening ear.
Shabbat services will be proceeding as scheduled this weekend. Friday night will include a Tot Shabbat service for our youngest worshipers and their families, and our main service will be a big, inclusive congregational Shabbat service in the Barish Sanctuary, to which all are invited. Please come join us at 6 pm for a prayer service of hope, healing and restorative music. This service is open to the entire Jewish community of Houston, and we hope that you will welcome your friends and neighbors from other congregations which may have been compromised by the storm to come and join us as well, so that we may all celebrate Shabbat together as a unified community.
We are grateful to continue receiving information from all of you about the ways in which you have been impacted by the storm, and also about the ways in which you've offered to help.
Please note the following updates about how we are gathering and processing information about the needs in our community:
- We have set up a new email address which will serve as a central collection point for information about our members' needs, and for the many generous offers of support. Please contact us at [email protected] to share with us your family's storm-related needs or challenges.
- [email protected] is also the place to let us know if you can offer a place for others who need a place to stay, or if you have a car or truck which can be used for storm relief. All other volunteer and donation opportunities will be coordinated through Jewish Family Service. JFS has a Crisis Hotline which can be reached at 713-364-5021. Calls and voicemails will be answered by local staffers who can assist with all basic needs and pair families with case managers as needed. JFS is also planning to coordinate volunteer efforts and donations of supplies, clothing, toiletries and other basic needs. We understand that JFS hopes to begin these efforts on Thursday, and that their plan includes a centralized distribution point at the ERJCC campus.
- If you or someone you know is able to provide donations of financial support, we are directing contributions toward our Clergy Good Works Fund. Donations to this fund can be distributed immediately to help with the basic needs of individuals and families who are struggling to recover. Additionally, we encourage the donation of gift cards for major retailers and grocery stores (Target, Home Depot, Walmart, Kroger, HEB); clergy will collect the cards and distribute them to our members who find themselves in need.
Finally, I am extremely proud to announce that, in partnership with the ERJCC and Greene Family Camp, Emanu El has organized a full-day camp program for kids whose families' lives have been affected by Hurricane Harvey. Hurricane Harvey's Houston Day Camp will be the perfect way for children to have fun with other kids from across Houston, while giving parents the ability to take care of their homes, cars and other responsibilities after a difficult week. Camp will be open to potty-trained children up to middle school age. Each age-specific unit's day will consist of arts and crafts, sports, and other fun games and programs. Additionally, we will be providing three meals per day to participants, including a breakfast and dinner to which campers' entire families will be invited to attend. Hurricane Harvey's Houston Day Camp will be staffed by teachers, camp professionals, parent, and high school volunteers from around the area, and will also have security on-site. Camp will run during this entire upcoming holiday weekend, from Thursday through Monday. Please spread the word: the registration form will be forthcoming on our website and Facebook page as soon as available to share. And please join us for Hurricane Harvey's Houston Day Camp at Emanu El!
Friends, we now know that this hurricane and its aftermath has developed into the most significant weather event in our lives and in the life of our congregation. But it remains clear that the way in which our community has responded to the devastation - with compassion, and generosity, and deep faith - stands perfectly aligned with the tradition of Emanu El, and the noblest teachings of Jewish life.
In hope and gratitude,
Rabbi Oren J. Hayon