(Courtesy of OU/RCA) The object in the photo was obscured by murky waters but was nonetheless identifiable to any Orthodox Jew—it was an Artscroll siddur, submerged and floating aimlessly in a synagogue sanctuary that is unlikely to host a prayer service anytime soon.
This image from the United Orthodox Synagogues of Houston was one of many heartbreaking scenes to emerge from Houston in the past few days as this region again found itself in the crosshairs of a catastrophic storm.
As rains pounded southeastern Texas and floodwaters continued to rise this past week, the Orthodox Union (OU) and the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA), in partnership with a number of community service organizations and synagogues, began coordinating efforts to assist the Orthodox Jewish community of Houston. They directed communities throughout North America to help by donating much-needed funds, signing up to volunteer and pledging to recite chapters of Tehillim (Psalms).
“More than 250 Orthodox families from the area have been displaced. The United Orthodox Synagogues, the Meyerland Minyan and Torah VaChesed all have members who are now out of their homes,” reported Allen Fagin, executive vice president of the OU. “In addition, several of the synagogues in the communities of Houston have been rendered un-usable.”
Conference calls were held with representatives of Houston’s community to help determine what is needed most. Of most immediate use are donations of money and gift cards from major retailers where cleaning and all other necessary supplies are available.
After insurance adjusters have assessed the damage, many volunteers will be needed on the ground to assist with cleanup and rebuilding efforts, and the OU and RCA plan to remain involved for as long as it takes.
“This is something we need to keep in the forefront of our minds in the weeks and months ahead, said OU President Moishe Bane. “We must let the kehilla of Houston know that we will continue to help, long after the flood waters recede.”
Volunteers from the OU’s youth movement, NCSY, and other organizations are planning chesed missions to the Houston area as soon as it is deemed safe. “We urge all individuals and organizations who want to help to go through one central point of contact at ou.org so that our efforts will be the most effective they can be, and as organized as possible,” adds Rabbi Adir Posy, a regional director of OU’s synagogue services department, who is working full time to coordinate the RCA/OU Houston relief efforts. For additional information, donations or to volunteer, go to www.ou.org.