Our Response to the 2017 Natural Disasters

29 flights and a cargo ship. 100,000 pounds of humanitarian and medical supplies. More than $5 million in hurricane relief for Houston, Puerto Rico, and the Caribbean.

In the fall of 2017, hurricanes Irma and Maria took a terrible toll on the people of Puerto Rico and the Caribbean. Hurricane Harvey left a path of destruction in Texas, while Florida coped with the aftermath of Irma.

Although there were massive needs, we were proud that our support provided life-saving supplies, cash assistance, critical relocation, rebuilding assistance, trauma support, and more.

We distributed $1.6 million in disaster relief funds and delivered goods worth more than $4 million.

Puerto Rico and the Caribbean

After Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico and the Caribbean, UJA partnered with the Afya Foundation and the Greater New York Hospital Association to dispatch 29 flights and a cargo ship to Puerto Rico and St. Thomas, delivering desperately needed supplies. These included 14 flights directly arranged by UJA. All flights were made possible thanks to the generosity of longtime donors.

Working closely with the Jewish communities in Puerto Rico and St. Thomas, we were able to direct resources where they were needed most. We delivered humanitarian aid directly to the poorest areas outside of San Juan and prescription medications and other important medical supplies to hospitals, medical clinics, and nursing homes throughout the island. To help St. Thomas, whose only hospital suffered significant damage, we delivered prescription medications and medical supplies to the Schneider Regional Medical Center and humanitarian aid to poor communities throughout the island.

Supplies included:

  • Medications (including prescriptions to help contain a conjunctivitis outbreak, tetanus shots, vials of insulin, and flu vaccines)
  • Water and water-filtration tablets and bottles
  • Non-perishable food
  • Toiletries, insect repellant, and sunscreen
  • Diapers (baby and adult) and baby formula
  • Over-the-counter medicine and first aid kits
  • Batteries, flashlights, and solar chargers
  • Cleaning supplies and work gloves
  • 10,000 pairs of shoes

Our support, together with funding from national federations, also provided:

  • Lifesaving supplies, including 200 generators, to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands
  • On-the-ground aid through IsraAID, which sent staff to Puerto Rico for two months.
  • Cash assistance to St. Thomas, St. John, and Puerto Rico


Houston and the Surrounding Areas

  • We provided emergency support for Houston, Beaumont, Galveston, and Port Arthur within days of Hurricane Harvey hitting.
  • We sent senior staff to help assess damage and share expertise gained from our experience with Hurricane Sandy. You can read their stories here, here, and here.
  • We arranged for 16 members of the New York Jewish community to travel to Houston on a volunteer mission, where they saw firsthand how the storm had devastated the JCC and two large synagogues and also helped with mucking and gutting the home of a low-income family in Northern Houston.
  • Our support was used for:
    • Cash assistance
    • Scholarships for families of early-childhood students
    • Vans for senior transport
    • Meal-prep equipment for Meals on Wheels program
    • Relocation costs for day school and early childhood center
    • Relocation costs for congregation for High Holiday services
    • Trauma relief through the Israel Trauma Coalition
    • The Jewish Federation of Greater Houston to develop a long-term disaster relief strategy and advocacy plan


  • As part of the national federation system, we provided emergency cash assistance to individuals and families with damaged or destroyed property.