I was speaking yesterday to one of my colleagues from the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA). He had traveled down to Houston as part of the ongoing effort by our national Federation system to help with the clean-up and relief effort there. He shared with us the devastation impacting the Jewish community, both to individual’s homes and to its institutions. There is a deep sense of resilience, but the Houston Jewish communal leadership is understandably worried about its future. As of yesterday morning, our Federation system had already raised more than $7.5 Million towards relief and that is what brings the JFNA staff team on site to work with the local community on developing and implementing communal strategy.
Concurrently, we’ve been watching the news about Hurricane Irma barreling its way to South Florida, what I believe to be the second largest concentration of Jews in North America. I have spoken to several of my counterparts in Florida this past week to wish them well and to let them know to be in touch if we in Pittsburgh can help in any way. They are preparing for the worst and hoping for the best.
Times like these exemplify the need for strong Jewish Federations. No other organization can organize an entire community and give it the supports it needs in these challenging times. In Houston, the Federation along with its social service agencies, are working on the rebuilding required after such a devastating natural disaster. In Florida, Federations have taken the lead on the preparation before the storm.
Federations can do those things that no single organization can do on its own. It’s what we do in Pittsburgh with our Jewish Community Security program, our Jewish Community Health Plan for employees of Jewish organizations, our Community Relations Council that develops relationships with diverse communities in our region, or the soon to be launched Life and Legacy effort that will train volunteers and staff from twelve Jewish organizations on how to have conversations with their constituents about leaving a legacy in support of those institutions.
My thoughts this Shabbat will be with our colleagues and friends in South Florida. And, I would make the point that while our attention may turn to Florida and the potential impact of Irma, we cannot lose sight or attention towards the Houston community. A new natural disaster does not “zero out” the prior one’s impact.