UJA’s chief planning officer, Deborah Joselow, shares an update from Houston.


Today was an “official” volunteer day. The Houston Federation mobilized more than 200 individuals to more than 125 homes for packing and clean up. This Herculean effort was arranged by the Young Adult Division. They have been tireless since I got here, spending hours connecting those in need with those able to provide help.

Dozens more volunteers swarmed the JCC for a final day of distribution of supplies, everything from buckets to pet food. The Texans (Houston’s football team) were at the Jewish community campus, helping unload trucks and fill up cars.

We spent time touring some of the most severely damaged Jewish institutions. The water lines are mind boggling. The smell is overpowering. Yet volunteer and professional crews carry-on. I saw lots of tears today. Everyone is worn down even as they persevere. It doesn’t feel like a holiday weekend.

Of necessity, people are lifting their eyes to the next phase. Schools and families search for alternative space. People prepare to return to work. Paperwork. Paperwork. Paperwork. Intentional flooding continued in West Houston and there were additional mandatory evacuations.

I am not familiar with the geography of this sprawling city but was told that the metropolitan area is the size of New Jersey. People in West Houston worry that the news cycle has moved on, just as they are moving out — without any idea of when they will get home.

Here in Houston there are many new and stretched definitions of home. Getting to a semblance of normal is still a ways away.

Read Saturday’s update.

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