When the floodwaters of Hurricane Harvey rose so high that Ashley Mills and her son could not open the door of their Houston home, it was “scary … surreal,” she remembered. During natural disasters like Hurricane Harvey — but also those that have recently ravaged Florida, Mexico and the Caribbean — “you don’t really have the opportunity to second guess,” Mills said. Thinking quickly, she and her son were able to escape from their window to shelter.
Many of the communities, like Mills’, that have been devastated by the winds, flooding and earthquakes of the past weeks are densely populated by Jewish residents. Those harmed are our loved ones, our friends, our neighbors and members of our Jewish communities.
The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia partners with the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) to provide relief, nourishment and humanitarian aid. These crises have been no exception.
Our partnerships have provided assistance to aid families, rebuild infrastructure, assist schools, offer trauma support, restore synagogues, maintain Jewish life and bolster recovery.
In Houston, for example, JFNA has called upon more than 250,000 volunteers to remove debris and offer comfort. In Mexico, JAFI has distributed more than 1,000 food parcels and clean water alongside doctors to help treat the injured. The JDC has a long-standing presence in the Caribbean and, after Hurricane Irma, provided critical relief through hygiene kits, drinking water, psychosocial support for children and access to safe educational facilities.
In the wake of Hurricane Jose and Hurricane Maria, Caribbean islands such as Puerto Rico are now experiencing new critical needs, placing added strain on the humanitarian relief effort already underway in the region.
However, in all of these circumstances our partnerships continue to provide unwavering support. We know it is often the most vulnerable who are most impacted by these events. People remain without food or power, and experts agree that full recovery could take years. As the days pass our aid does not lessen. If there is any light in times of disaster, it is the reminder of the incredible power of our human ability to care for one another.
When Hurricane Harvey subsided, “we knew immediately where to go and seek help,” Mills said, standing safely with her son in Houston’s Jewish Federation building. “We knew to count on the Federation. It’s just understood that they would be there and they had our backs.”
Though the destruction has been great, testing our abilities to mobilize and respond, we remain committed to using the strength of our collective Jewish Federation system to provide emergency resources where they are most needed. It is because of you that we are able to quickly and efficiently Carry the Light during moments of catastrophe, so that communities will not just recover, but rebuild.
Visit jewishphilly.org/disaster-relief for more information and to donate to relief and recovery in Mexico, Houston, Florida, Puerto Rico, Cuba and other Caribbean nations.