While Jews around the world have been watching the effect of flooding on the Jewish community of Houston, for the Jewish community of New Orleans the images hit home in a more direct way.
In August 2005, the levees around New Orleans failed following Hurricane Katrina, inundating the city with as much as 12 feet of water in some areas. The entire city had to evacuate, for weeks and months instead of days.
In a statement, the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans noted how “Houston welcomed our New Orleans Jewish community with open arms, and displayed extraordinary acts of kindness and generosity in helping those who were displaced. 5,000 Jews were taken in, fed, clothed, and housed. We were welcomed to Houston’s synagogues and day schools, and offered childcare for free.”
Because “there is no one who can relate to this kind of tragedy more than us” the New Orleans community is publicizing and urging donations to the Houston Federation’s online donations mailbox for flood relief efforts. Houston’s Jewish Family Service will assist community members in need of short-term housing and support.
The New Orleans-based Jewish Children’s Regional Service, which serves a seven-state region that includes Texas, is offering replacement children’s books, toys or other necessary children’s items to those who need them.
Houston has a Jewish community of 40,000. A major area of flooding was along Braeswood Boulevard, where much of the Jewish community lives. United Orthodox Synagogues of Houston and Congregation Beth Israel were flooded, and the rabbi emeritus from UOS had to be evacuated by canoe.
The Houston JCC also had flood damage.
Two members of Houston’s Jewish community apparently died in the flooding. Shirley Alter, 85, and Jack Alter, 87, were on a rescue boat on May 26 with their daughter. After a few minutes the boat capsized and the Alters were swept away. Shirley Alter’s body was recovered later in the morning, and another body, believed to be that of Jack Alter, was found late on May 28. The identity was confirmed mid-day on May 29.
For comprehensive coverage of the flood and its aftermath in Houston, visit the Jewish Herald-Voice.