Update on National Emergency Response Efforts

We want to thank all of our donors and network communities who have worked to mobilize support and resources through our Jewish Federation system in addressing the many urgent needs arising from these disasters.

The following is an update on the work of our entire Jewish Federation system to date:

Hurricane Harvey

Seven weeks following the end of the rain, Houston and the other areas affected by Hurricane Harvey are still in fairly early stages of recovery. With more than 2,000 Jewish homes flooded, and 8 major institutional facilities in the Jewish community sustaining catastrophic damage, the scope of issues facing the Houston Jewish community are enormous.

To date approximately $17.9M has been raised through the Jewish Federation system, as follows:

  • $6.5M raised by Jewish Federations across North America
  • $9.1M raised by the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston
  • $1.3M contributed by Jewish Foundations (does not include foundation grants to local Federations or the Houston Federation, which are incorporated in the figures above)
  • $1M committed by the Government of Israel

Of this amount, over $12M has been allocated through the Houston Federation and the national Emergency Committee process to provide direct relief to flood victims (trauma counseling, case management and financial assistance), to help these individuals and families to stay connected to Jewish life and community, and to address institutional sustainability and repair issues. The focus of the Jewish Federations’ national funding is primarily in the area of relief to flood victims. While the primary focus is on the enormous impact of the flood in Houston, our Emergency Committee has also worked with the small communities in Galveston and Beaumont to assist those communities.

Jewish Federation of North America's (JFNA) Emergency Committee is meeting again during the week of October 30 to consider a significant further allocation of national funds.

Hurricanes Irma and Maria

The impact on mainland Florida from Hurricane Irma was less severe than anticipated, especially for the larger concentrations of Jewish population on Florida’s east coast. While the larger communities in South Florida (Miami, Broward County, South Palm Beach and Palm Beach) were generally able to address the issues in their own communities and extend assistance to other communities, there was heavier impact on some of the smaller communities further north (Collier County, Jacksonville, and St. Augustine). A unique role was fulfilled by Chabad across numerous Florida communities in providing congregate and home-delivered meals to seniors and others affected by prolonged power outages.

The biggest impact of these storms have been felt in the islands off the coast of Florida, within and beyond the U.S. border - Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, the Florida Keys, Cuba, and others. The national Emergency Committee has focused on the U.S. communities affected, while our partner, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, is supporting Cuba and other island nations. The major focus of our efforts has been in Puerto Rico and St. Thomas, which are both characterized by small Jewish communities deeply affected amidst a sea of misery well-documented in the news media.

None of these communities have communal infrastructure beyond individual synagogues and our support has primarily been directly to affected individuals through the various congregations, and supporting the work of IsraAID and the AFYA Foundation, who are providing humanitarian assistance to the Jewish communities and on a significant non-sectarian basis.

As several of our large Federations are working directly with partners in their own communities or international aid organizations with which they have relationships, the financial information that follows reflects only the funds remitted to JFNA:

Funds Remitted to date in response to Hurricanes Irma/Maria: $900,000

Allocations: $530,000

Mainland Florida Communities:

  • Jewish Federation of Broward County - $ 20,000
  • Chabad of Broward County - $ 50,000
  • Collier County Jewish Federation - $ 45,000
  • Jacksonville Jewish Federation - $ 20,000
  • Pinellas County - $ 25,000

Island Communities:

  • Key West congregations - $ 30,000
  • Puerto Rico congregations - $135,000
  • St. Thomas congregations - $ 75,000
  • IsraAID in Puerto Rico - $ 80,000
  • AFYA Foundation - $ 50,000

In addition to these funds, with the financial support of UJA Federation of New York, JFNA was able to acquire and deliver 212 urgently needed generators to Jewish communities in Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, and the Keys for distribution to members of the Jewish community and others in need. Several of our Federations, most notably New York, Miami, Broward, and South Palm Beach have all been engaged in direct relief efforts in the island communities which are not reflected in these numbers.

JFNA’s Emergency Committee will be considering further allocations.

North Bay Fires in California

The most recent focus of disaster relief efforts has been in response to the extensive wildfires in Napa and Sonoma counties in California. Over the period it took to get the fires contained, a very extensive area was devastated by the fires, resulting in immeasurable loss.

Within the Jewish community, dozens of Jewish homes were destroyed by fire, as well as URJ’s Camp Newman. The Jewish Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin, and Sonoma Counties and the Jewish Federation of the East Bay partnered together to create the North Bay Wildfire Relief Fund, and have coordinated their relief efforts during and in the immediate aftermath of the fires. JFNA has not established a separate national fund and encouraged all Federations to direct relief funds to the joint fund established by the Bay Area federations. 

Funds Remitted to date by the San Francisco-based Federation in response to the North Bay wildfires: $212,826

Allocations by the San Francisco-based Federation: $26,000

To date, a total of $26,000 in emergency grants have been disbursed among eight organizations and synagogues, including: Jewish Family and Children’s Services, JCC of Sonoma County, Congregation Shomrei Torah (Santa Rosa), Congregation Beth Ami (Santa Rosa), Congregation Shir Shalom (Sonoma), Congregation Ner Shalom (Cotati), Chabad of Sonoma and Chabad of Petaluma.

Mark Gurvis is the Executive Vice President of the Jewish Federations of North America.

Learn more about how our Federation responds to emergencies.

Categories: Community


October 30, 2017


Mark Gurvis