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The Jewish Herald-Voice newspaper is the only recognized source of Jewish news in Houston, Texas, the Houston area and along the Texas Gulf Coast, in print and online. Distinguished as being the oldest (since 1908) Jewish newspaper in the Southwest.
Updated: 2 hours 51 min ago

Harlem Globetrotters coming to Shlenker to lift children's spirits amid Harvey cleanup

Fri, 09/15/2017 - 6:39pm
Members of the Harlem Globetrotters are coming to a Jewish day school in Houston that opened its doors to other community schools displaced by Hurricane Harvey. Globetrotters Moose Weeks and Flip White are coming to Houston on Tuesday morning, Sept. 19, where they will host a basketball exhibition for children at The Shlenker School. In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, Shlenker and Congregation Beth Israel carved out space in their facilities to host more than a dozen classes from Bertha Alyce Early Childhood Center and Beth Yeshurun Day School, while repairs are being made to the latters' flood-damaged buildings. A former Shlenker student, Aryn Bryant, is senior marketing director for the Harlem Globetrotters. Bryant saw what Shlenker was doing for families impacted by Hurricane Harvey. She made arrangements for the pair of Globetrotters to visit children at the school to help lift spirits as Houstonians face a long road toward recovery. Meanwhile, the Globetrotters are partnering with the American Red Cross to raise funds for Harvey relief. Every donation of $10 offers a chance to win a Harlem Globetrotters VIP trip for four to Hawaii, Oct. 12-16, 2017. The contest ends Sept. 19. To enter, visit

'This is our community, it's not for sale,' say flood-impacted residents

Fri, 09/15/2017 - 3:30pm
Fears of a potential FEMA buyout program would be more devastating to Houston's Jewish community than Hurricane Harvey's floodwaters, according to community members who live near Brays Bayou and have suffered heavy losses during multiple flooding events, including Harvey. "If FEMA engages in a widespread buyout program, which we're reading about in news reports, it would decimate these Jewish neighborhoods," said Rabbi Barry Gelman from United Orthodox Synagogues, which now has flooded three times in three years. "Our main worry is how such a program will negatively impact the long-term viability of our community," Rabbi Gelman told the JHV. On Friday morning, Sept. 15, Rabbi Gelman and other leaders from UOS gave U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz a tour of their synagogue, which took in 5 feet of floodwater during Harvey. Sen. Cruz also visited flood-damaged homes in the surrounding Willow Meadows neighborhood and met with homeowners, who asked the Republican lawmaker to help dissuade FEMA from buyouts in their area. "About 200 of the 320 families at UOS live within walking distance of the temple," UOS member Steven Mitzner told Sen. Cruz. "For those of us here, we need to live here." Between 150 and 200 UOS families, including Rabbi Gelman's, suffered flood damage from Harvey, according to initial assessments. Most, if not all, of those residents also lost vehicles during the flood. If UOS were forced to move somewhere else, Houston's only Modern Orthodox synagogue likely would lose 50 percent of its membership, UOS leaders warned. Amy Goldstein, who helps lead an emergency response team in Willow Meadows, noted that a FEMA buyout program in the area would raise legal concerns. JHV: MICHAEL C. DUKE

Thousands of religious books and ritual items, destroyed by Hurricane Harvey, have been piled up behind United Orthodox Synagogues, awaiting burial in accordance with Jewish law.

"There's a First Amendment issue with the government telling people you can't go to this synagogue," Goldstein said. "There's not a comparable synagogue in this city. There are different Orthodox synagogues, but UOS is unique." Sen. Cruz told UOS leaders that he will reach out to senior officials with FEMA to "start a conversation" regarding FEMA's buyout intentions. "We're happy to help any way we can," said Sen. Cruz, acknowledging the need expressed by UOS members and Willow Meadows residents to stay in the neighborhood. He added, "The same spirit of unity and resolve of purpose that got us through Harvey will get us through rebuilding." According to reports, Harris County Flood Control is actively pursuing the necessary federal funding to proceed with Harvey-related home buyouts. FEMA, in turn, would condemn those properties, it's believed, and convert the land to retention areas. UOS members said such a plan would be a "doomsday scenario" for Houston's Jewish community - nearly 70 percent of whom live near Brays Bayou in Southwest Houston. "If FEMA is going to give X amount of dollars to a family to buy them out, why not instead give that money to the family, so they can raise their house, which would solve the problem and save this community, which has been here for 100 years," Rabbi Gelman said. As for UOS, itself, synagogue leaders said their intention is to build a new building on the existing property that would be better situated to avoid flood damage. "We don't know about structural damage [from Harvey], but the truth is, we don't intend to find out," Rabbi Gelman told Sen. Cruz. "The real push, now, is to build a new building on our property ... so the synagogue doesn't flood. "G-d forbid, if the neighborhood floods again, the [new] synagogue will be in a position to help people, instead of needing help, itself," the rabbi said. In the meantime, UOS members and volunteers, including students from Yeshiva University, have been making repairs to UOS' social hall in time for Rosh Hashanah, which begins Wednesday evening, Sept. 20. Even though UOS' Freedman Hall was built 4½ feet higher than the synagogue's original building, it still took in more than a foot of floodwater during Harvey. "Freedman Hall has been remediated, cleaned and disinfected, and sheetrock has been torn out and replaced," Rabbi Gelman reported on Sept. 15. "We're going to be a one-room schoolhouse, now, for a long time." After visiting UOS, Sen. Cruz met with Willow Meadows residents in their flood-damaged homes, some of which took in as much as 7 feet of water after Harvey caused Brays Bayou to crest on Sunday morning, Aug. 27. Residents, whose homes now have flooded three times in three years, told Sen. Cruz that the latest ordeal has been particularly hard on their children. They also reported that there is a huge discrepancy among flood insurance payouts given to comparable houses and losses. "It appears totally arbitrary and dependent upon the sensibility of an individual adjuster," Goldstein told the JHV. Goldstein, who works with elected officials on disaster-recovery projects, said government can play a beneficial role by standardizing the process. She also expressed the need for better oversight regarding mortgage forbearance. "Fannie Mae issued guidelines, but it appears that it's still up to the servicer on whether or not homeowners will be hit with a balloon payment after three months of forbearance," Goldstein said. "People will be hit with a balloon payment on top of having to pay rent for their temporary living situations, which, in some cases, is more than their mortgage payments." Many Harvey-impacted community members, who live in Willow Meadows and the Meyerland area, told the JHV that they want to rebuild and stay together as a community, yet fear the possibility of that option being taken away, should FEMA enforce a buyout program for their area. "What is the long-term future of this community, which has medical professionals and energy professionals and business people and lawyers, school teachers, plumbers and electricians?" Rabbi Gelman said. "It's diverse, religiously. It's diverse economically. That's a big question mark that looms large. "It's really important for us to stick together and try to help each other through this," Rabbi Gelman said.

Children's event, post-Harvey

Thu, 09/14/2017 - 11:18am
Bring your children to the Jewish Children's Party & Unity Rally on Sunday, Sept. 17, 12:30-2:30 p.m. The bash will be held at the Main Event Stafford, 12626 Fountain Lake Circle, in Stafford, Texas. FREE for first 100 to register here here. For ages up to 13, includes all you can play: laser tag, bowling, gravity ropes, billiards and shuffleboard. Prizes for every pre-registered child. A project of Chabad Harvey Relief.

BYDS kindergarten, EC classes resume after Harvey

Wed, 09/13/2017 - 5:25pm
If it weren't for different surroundings and some new teaching materials, one could hardly tell that Beth Yeshurun Day School was displaced by Hurricane Harvey. Children from BYDS' kindergarten and early childhood programs resumed classes on Wednesday morning, Sept. 13, on the joint campus of Beth Israel synagogue and The Shlenker School. A week earlier, BYDS' elementary school started back in classrooms provided by The Emery/Weiner School. BYDS' building suffered flood damage from Harvey, though new drywall already was being installed in the building on Sept. 12 to enable the school to return home as soon as possible. School and Congregation Beth Yeshurun leaders agreed that the day school's building should be given priority as the rest of the flood-damaged campus undergoes repairs. "It's much better here than I expected," said Bonnie Suchart, a BYDS pre-K 4 teacher, whose classroom is one of 10 located for the time being in Beth Israel's expansive Wolff-Toomim Social Hall. Each class has its own space in the hall, delineated by a series of partitions. Teachers said they did their best to replicate their original classrooms. They received new teaching materials to replace those lost to Harvey's floodwaters. Portable hand-washing stations and water coolers also were installed. Shlenker, meanwhile, is hosting BYDS' kindergarten classes. Welcome banners and school leaders greeted BYDS families on Wednesday morning. "Looking at the smiles on kids' faces, you'd never know we've been through so much," Suchart told the JHV on the first day back to school. "Parents seemed happy this morning, and those who came to our open house yesterday to check out the space also were very happy." Benjamin Rosenfeld is a BYDS pre-K student who described his temporary classroom as "good." JHV: MICHAEL C. DUKE

Partitions were installed in Beth Israel's social hall to accommodate 10 BYDS early childhood classes that were displaced by Hurricane Harvey.

"It's the same school, only in a different place," Benjamin told the JHV as he decorated a paper crown in celebration of his recent fifth birthday. "We even have our calendar on the wall and a calendar helper gets to do it every day," he said. While the large social hall has less natural lighting than BYDS enjoys back home, teachers said the children had no problem adjusting. With so many classes sharing space, however, the noise level can present a challenge, teachers noted. There's also a logistical challenge for the school's hosts. Every Friday, Beth Israel's social hall has to be cleared for use by the congregation, then set back up again on Sunday for the next school week. "Everything in every classroom space is numbered, and we have pictures of how everything should look, so it shouldn't be too much of an issue getting it all set back up again," Suchart said. "The children and teachers are just happy to be back," she added. BYDS teachers and parents, alike, expressed gratitude to Congregation Beth Israel, The Shlenker School and The Emery/Weiner School for opening their campuses to BYDS and making their guests feel welcome, they told the JHV. Besides BYDS, Shlenker also is hosting classes from the Evelyn Rubenstein JCC's Bertha Alyce Early Childhood Center, whose building also suffered flood damage from Hurricane Harvey.

New YAD leaders look back and ahead on community-building

Wed, 09/13/2017 - 3:26pm
The Jewish Federation of Greater Houston's Jerome Robinson Family YAD welcomes its new lay leaders. YAD creates a vibrant and inclusive community for young adults through programs that connect them to their roots, while working to build a Jewish future. New chair Shawn Golan and vice chair Kacie Penn assume the leadership roles as YAD continues to expand its wide and diverse range of programming, including social and cultural events, learning programs, volunteer opportunities, networking events, philanthropic events and more. "YAD's early days began as a bunch of happy hours and a couple of large events throughout the year. Today, YAD has grown, thanks to its passionate members, and has evolved to fit the needs of a diverse group of participants," said Golan, who noted YAD's four pillars: social, community service, business and professional, and campaign (fundraising). Golan is a third-generation contractor who works for his family's business, Golan Contractors. "Buildings are in my blood," he said. He grew up in Southwest Houston and moved back to the city following college graduation. After initially working with his friends to plan social events, Golan said he "decided to push myself to become a better leader." He found that opportunity through YAD, which he describes as his "family." "After going to YAD events to socialize for a few years, I was asked to help get corporate sponsors for a casino night fundraiser, which began my path on the YAD board," he recalled. "After seeing the impact of the numerous organizational benefactors locally and abroad, and hearing the stories of many Federation staffers and lay leaders, it inspired me to get more involved." Penn, the regional program director for AIPAC, had attended several YAD events when she moved back to Houston after completing college. But, she said it wasn't until she went on the Federation's Mission to Israel in 2015 that she became more involved in a leadership role. "The trip was amazing," she said, "and, I learned so much about the Federation, from its involvement in local needs to projects in Israel and overseas." Looking back Reflecting on YAD's accomplishments in recent years, Golan noted the organization of increasingly popular "quality events," such as the Mitzvah Day community service initiative, "has been growing to the point where we are considering adding a second day in the spring," as well as the "Party of 8" Cinco de Mayo-oriented social event. Penn added, "I think we've done a great job creating programming and opportunities for everyone, including singles, couples, young families and affinity groups." Looking ahead Golan said a key objective for YAD, moving forward, is to "build upon previous years by pushing our event programing to new heights, creating a vibrant Houston young Jewish professional community for networking and socializing. "Through the years," he continued, "YAD has evolved to incorporate more small niche events to allow people to have meaningful interactions more often. At our key larger events, some new people tend to feel overwhelmed. "As a fundraising organization, with many millennials giving personally for the first time, we are focusing on a longer-term strategy to engage and educate about the great work the Federation does locally, in Israel and around the globe," added Golan. Penn said she hopes to help YAD continue to organize social, cultural and philanthropic programming "that brings the Jewish young adult community together while giving back, furthering their Jewish commitment and meeting other Jewish young adults." For more information, contact YAD director, Lisa Stanton, at 713-729-7000, ext. 319, or [email protected].


Wed, 09/13/2017 - 11:14am
John Melvin Weintraub, 79, passed away peacefully and surrounded by family on Sept. 12, 2017, after a lengthy illness. Johnny was born Aug. 8, 1938, in Houston, Texas, to David and Molly (Prager) Weintraub. An only child, he was a joy to his grandparents and parents, who doted on him and raised him to be spiritual, charitable and active in his community. Johnny graduated from San Jacinto High School and earned his Bachelor of Business Administration from Tulane University, where he was salutatorian of his class. He attended The University Texas School of Law, where he was inducted in Phi Delta Phi and graduated at the top of his law class. Johnny loved the law and was a sole practitioner in Houston just shy of 50 years. He was well-respected in the legal community and served as a mentor to young attorneys. He firmly believed everyone should have access to a good attorney, regardless of financial status, and represented clients who otherwise would not have the ability to obtain proper representation. On Aug. 15, 1965, Johnny married Saline Adelson. Together, they welcomed their son, Mark, in 1969 and their daughter, Gaye Beth, in 1974. Johnny and Saline enjoyed their life together. They traveled all over the United States and abroad, but their favorite vacation spots were with their children in Key West, Miami, South Padre and Corpus, where Johnny could go fishing with Mark and spend time building sand castles with Gaye Beth. Johnny and Saline loved being Jewish, and they passed their love of the Jewish culture onto their children. A true Zionist, Johnny supported the State of Israel and valued the Jewish homeland. He was active in many organizations and dedicated much of his time to Lions Club International, where he served as president of his local chapter. Johnny is survived by his devoted wife of 52 years, Saline, and their children Mark and Gaye Beth. He is also survived by his brothers-in-law, Dr. Allen Adelson and wife Lynn of Wimberley, Texas, and Filmore Cohen of Houston, Texas; and many nieces, nephews, cousins and friends. Johnny was predeceased by his parents David and Molly and sister-in-law Maxine Adelson Cohen. The family wishes to extend their gratitude to Johnny's doctors, Dr. Vandana Khera and Dr. William Irr, Jr.; and his caretakers, Raúl Baltazar, Hervis Rogers and Ralph Johnson, who treated him with such respect and dignity throughout his illness. The family is also grateful for the outpouring of love, prayers and support in many heartfelt forms. Graveside services will be held at 10 a.m. on Thurs., Sept. 14, 2017, at Adath Emeth Cemetery, 1540 Sylvester Rd., with Rabbi Barry Gelman officiating. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made in Johnny's memory to the Jewish National Fund (, Texas Lions Camp in Kerrville ( and The University of Texas School of Law General Scholarship Fund (

Senior community bent, but not broken by Harvey

Sat, 09/09/2017 - 10:25pm
Residents and staff at Seven Acres Jewish Senior Care Services and The Medallion Jewish Assisted Living Residence said they are "standing tall" after Hurricane Harvey inflicted flood damage to the first floors of both facilities that share property along Brays Bayou in Southwest Houston. Two weeks after Harvey caused bayous to crest and brought record-setting rainfall to the Texas Gulf Coast - as much as 50 inches across large portions of Houston - Seven Acres and The Medallion have made huge strides toward building repairs, while staff continue to work around the clock to meet the needs of residents, especially those who lost homes and possessions during the flood. "It's been stressful since the flood, but I know things will be fine in the end," said Leah Premazon, 72, who lost all of her furniture, she noted, when floodwaters took over her first-floor home at The Medallion. Premazon's 93-year-old mother, Judy Bogos, incurred similar losses when Bogos' first floor home at Seven Acres flooded, as well. As both facilities began to take in floodwater, and an elevator was disabled temporarily after a generator flooded, Seven Acres and Medallion staff carried more than 100 residents upstairs to safety. JHV: MICHAEL C. DUKE

Personal property at Seven Acres and The Medallion that escaped flood damage during Hurricane Harvey is being securely stored for residents during the rebuilding process.

"The staff are so incredible - they got us through the worst, and they're getting us through the recovery," Premazon told the JHV on Thursday, Sept. 7. "Sleeping arrangements during those first few days were challenging, but the food has been good and everything that staff have been able to control, they've done so, and have done it well." Premazon said she slept in a chair in one of The Medallion's communal sitting areas that first night after being evacuated upstairs. The next three nights, she slept in a recliner in the room of an upstairs resident. Thereafter, she has spent nights with her daughter in Bellaire, and spends days back at The Medallion, she noted. Meanwhile, her mother is now sleeping at the home of Premazon's sister. The arrangements have the whole family feeling stressed, Premazon said. Yolande Dauber, 98, lives on the second floor at The Medallion and has opened her home to downstairs neighbors displaced by Harvey. "I had a lady sleep in my chair for a few nights, and there's another lady who is still using my bathroom to take showers and baths," Dauber told the JHV on Sept. 7. "This experience has brought residents closer together. They are more interested in each other," she said. Dauber, who moved to The Medallion five years ago from Florida, said she looked out of her second-story window during the flood and saw "a sea of water." The nonagenarian praised Seven Acres and Medallion staff for their response to Hurricane Harvey. "They are very well organized, here, taking very good care of people from downstairs," she said. "Staff were here all night when we flooded and there was no person who was neglected for one minute." She added, "The staff, here, have proven themselves before, so I felt very confident that we'd be OK this time, too." JHV: MICHAEL C. DUKE

Seven Acres' "dream team" staff members Isabel Reyes and Ahmed Taylor helped evacuate residents to higher ground during Hurricane Harvey.

'Dream team' Staff who stayed all night to care for residents volunteered to do so, they told the JHV. Seven Acres calls that group of 50 staff members its "dream team." Team members were given specific responsibilities in the event of an emergency, and also have been cross-trained to assist other members of the team, they noted. Dream team member, Phyllis Tacquard, is director of dining for Seven Acres and The Medallion. "Our immediate challenge during Harvey was keeping everybody fed, dealing with a loss of electricity in certain parts of the building until the back-up generator kicked in, plus the kitchen being flooded," Tacquard told the JHV. "Breakfast that morning wasn't too bad, we could deal with that," she said. "Lunch and dinner that first day after the flood was sandwiches, because we couldn't cook." Tacquard said she is proud of her crew of 14 dining staff who pulled together to take care of residents' nutritional and emotional needs. "Teamwork is what got us through this," she said. "Often times, I didn't even have to ask someone to do something, even if it was outside their normal job. "They just did it," Tacquard said. It was Seven Acres CEO Malcolm Slatko who made the call to shelter in place during Hurricane Harvey. "We could have got 40 buses and attempted to get everybody to Austin, San Antonio or Dallas, but then we'd run the risk of having a death rate," Slatko told the JHV. "I made the decision to stay, and I'd do it again, because we have the staff and the training to save lives and take care of everyone here." Procedural training Isabel Reyes and Ahmed Taylor are dream team members who have worked together at Seven Acres for more than 30 years. Initially, staff tried to stop the flooding on the ground floor with squeegees, mops, towels and linens, they noted. With water entering from every egress, however, 45 minutes later staff had to enact the next step in their procedural training and began to evacuate residents to the second floor. Porters and other staff used bed sheets as stretchers to carry residents with limited mobility up the stairs. The strategy worked and nobody was injured during the evacuation. "We have good training to deal with emergencies," said Taylor, who went room to room during the evacuation and helped carry people upstairs. "The priority is always the safety of our residents," he said. A total of 175 residents at Seven Acres and The Medallion were moved to higher ground. Between the two facilities, 100 units suffered flood damage. JHV: MICHAEL C. DUKE

Seven Acres board president Judy Yambra helped box up residents' property and tear out flood-damaged carpet in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

Tear-out underway After Harvey's floodwaters receded, 150 contractors have been working on site to repair damages, and to assist staff, volunteers and Seven Acres board members with packing up residents' undamaged property and moving it to storage. "We're getting close to completing half of the tear-out at both facilities," Slatko told the JHV on Sept. 7. "The story, here, is that repairs and recovery continue at Seven Acres." Indeed, most of the rooms that flooded already had been stripped bare, down to the studs, with only bathroom porcelain still to be hauled away. Heading into Harvey, Slatko said Seven Acres and The Medallion already were making preparations. Generators and back-up generators were in place. A fuel room was stocked. Administration and computers were centralized. Shelter was provided to family members - and pets - of staff who volunteered for the dream team. "One of the most important lessons we've learned from dealing with emergencies is that if you take care of your employees, they'll take care of the residents," Slatko said. "Every step we take points back to our mission of taking care of the residents." Staff familiarity Gabrielle Langley is a clinical social worker at Seven Acres who, like other dream team members, was on site all night during the flood. In the aftermath of Harvey, Langley said her team has worked hard to maintain staff familiarity among residents who were displaced. JHV: MICHAEL C. DUKE

Work crews had completed nearly half of the necessary tear-out in flood-impacted units at Seven Acres and The Medallion by Sept. 7.

"We've tried as best as we can to keep staff with residents they worked with before the flood, because those staff members know how to best serve those residents and meet their individualized needs," Langley told the JHV. Being assisted by staff they know has helped displaced residents, even if their current surroundings, upstairs, are less familiar, they told the JHV. "I feel very lucky, to tell you the truth," Premazon said. "When I see what happened over by UOS and in large parts of Meyerland - I have friends over there who have now lost everything for the second or even third time to flooding - I feel quite fortunate. "It doesn't do a bit of good to complain - it's not going to change anything," she said. "We'll survive." Down the hall, 98-year-old Dauber was taking Harvey and its aftermath in stride. "We're not so young, here," she said. "We've already lived through a lot of things. "We've learned how to bend without breaking," Dauber said.

Flood-damaged Beth Yeshurun Day School resumes classes on other community campuses

Fri, 09/08/2017 - 6:15pm
On Friday morning, Sept. 8, fourth-graders from Beth Yeshurun Day School were busy learning math in a familiar class, but in less-familiar surroundings. The students, along with BYDS' entire elementary school and early childhood programs, were displaced by Hurricane Harvey two weeks ago after every classroom in BYDS' building on the campus of Beth Yeshurun synagogue in Southwest Houston suffered flood damage. The Emery/Weiner School reached out to BYDS and offered to host its elementary school classes as repairs are being made to BYDS' home. Meanwhile, the displaced school accepted an offer this week from The Shlenker School and Congregation Beth Israel to temporarily host BYDS' EC and kindergarten classes, even as Beth Israel, itself, undergoes repairs to portions of its facilities that flooded during Harvey. "Our classes are the same, the lessons are the same, the teachers are the same, but now, instead of us rotating classrooms, we stay in one classroom and different teachers, for different subjects, come to us," said BYDS fourth-grader, Carly Ostrin. Ostrin told the JHV on Friday morning that she is "sad" about her school being flooded, but she's "happy" to be at EWS, given the circumstances. JHV: MICHAEL C. DUKE

Carly Ostrin and other BYDS fourth-graders said lessons have gone unchanged, despite having to move locations, due to Hurricane Harvey flood-damage at their school.

"BYDS is close to where we live, but Emery is even closer," she said. Besides their school, some 25 percent of BYDS students suffered flood damage at their homes, according to parents, who attended a town hall meeting at Emery with BYDS leaders on Thursday night, Sept. 7. Children at BYDS who didn't flood said they are comforting their friends who did. Teachers and staff - half-a-dozen of whom also flooded - have been working hard to keep up morale, they noted. EWS, in turn, has done its best to make the transition as smooth as possible, according to teachers. "Emery has prepared a very soft landing for us," said Jodi Chait, a third-grade teacher at BYDS. "Our kids have adjusted to the change so well. They seem happy and many already have said they love being here." Chait, herself, attended BYDS as a kid and graduated from I. Weiner Middle School. "It's wonderful being back here and seeing how well Emery is being run," said the 28-year-old. "Given how accommodating everyone here has been, it makes me proud to be a former student who went here. "My teachers, here, helped me become the teacher I am today," Chait added. EWS created space for its guests by combining a few of its own classrooms and offices. EWS students, meanwhile, said they've gone out of their way to welcome their guests. Middle schoolers, in particular, who are closer in age to BYDS students, told the JHV that they are looking after the younger kids. "It's really nice to see all these elementary school kids around here - it brings back so many good memories of when we were that age," said EWS eighth-grader, Maddie Ross. Dovid Adler, another EWS eighth-grader, added: "We were once them, so we kind of know how they feel. "They look up to us like we're awesome, but we tell them: 'You kids are the awesome ones, because you're still coming to school and having a good time, despite everything you've gone through,' " Adler told the JHV. While BYDS' first through fifth grades resumed classes on Tuesday, Sept. 5, school leaders told parents it will be another week or so until BYDS' pre-school program - CDO through kindergarten - reopens at Shlenker/Beth Israel. Besides opening its doors to BYDS, Shlenker also will be hosting some 70 displaced students from the Evelyn Rubenstein JCC's Bertha Alyce Center over the next month until Bertha Alyce can be moved to the J's Merfish Teen Center, which also suffered flood damage and is being repaired. More than 100 parents attended BYDS' town hall on Sept. 7. During that meeting, school leaders thanked EWS, Beth Israel and Shlenker for their hospitality. BYDS leaders also explained the process that the school went through to locate temporary accommodations, and gave ample time to answer questions from families, mostly pertaining to the school's early childhood and kindergarten programs. Earlier that day, BYDS sent an email to parents, notifying them of plans to temporarily hold classes at other day schools, while still remaining "self-contained." Season Paquette is co-chair of BYDS' parent-teacher organization and has a kindergartener and a first grader at the school. PTO helped organize volunteers to pack up and clean out BYDS's flood-damaged classrooms to aid in the transition to temporary quarters. The group also is helping with school communications, as school leaders have applied for financial assistance from the Jewish Federation to expedite the rebuilding process. "I'm happy with the plan going forward," Paquette told the JHV at the town hall. "The school has done it's best to deal with an unprecedented situation like this that nobody could have planned for." Paquette said her kids have been "flexible" in coping with challenges in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. "Avi, my first-grader, is thrilled to be at Emery - he wants to go to Emery when he's older. He thinks it's fabulous," Paquette said. "And Ari, my kindergartener, is fine with being at Shlenker, too. He has friends there. Even though he won't have classes with his Shlenker friends, he still thinks it's neat. "Both kids said, 'It's a mitzvah they're letting us be in their space,' " Paquette told the JHV. "They were extremely upset that their school flooded, so it's really nice that they have this wider community of support." Stewart Rosenthal, BYDS' board chair, praised teachers, administrators and parents during the town hall for pulling together as the school focuses on recovery. Rosenthal assured BYDS families that the school's top priority continues to be the "safety, welfare and education" of its students. BYDS leaders said that the school is fortunate to be able to reopen this year, when many school programs in the Houston area will not be able to do so.

Concert triggers 'emotional release' after Harvey

Fri, 09/08/2017 - 10:58am
Volunteers and families impacted by Hurricane Harvey flooded a makeshift dance floor at Houston's Robert M. Beren Academy, where Mordechai Shapiro gave a pulsating musical performance on Thursday evening, Sept. 7, to help re-energize relief efforts. The concert was held in tandem with a broadcast of the Nachum Segal Network's popular "JM in the AM" radio show. "There's a lot of built-up anxiety and emotion that's finally being released," said Rafi Engelhart, whose son sat on his shoulders as the pair danced with other young families from the Willow Meadows neighborhood whose homes were destroyed by Harvey's floodwaters some two weeks ago. Nearby, a throng of teens and young men were dancing and crowd-surfing with as much intensity as they've shown over the past several days, assisting hundreds of flood-impacted families across Southwest Houston, mucking out homes and helping residents begin the rebuilding process. JHV: MICHAEL C. DUKE

Mordechai Shapiro involved Houstonians in his performance during a Harvey-relief concert at Beren Academy.

"We're dancing as hard as we've worked - and we've been working really hard," said one of the volunteers, who only gave his first name, Yaakov, as he and others swelled across the dance floor to Shapiro's music. The Nachum Segal Network brought Shapiro from New York for the singer's debut Houston performance. Speaking to the JHV before taking the stage, Shapiro said he was amazing by the outpouring of support in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. "In New York, we can only watch the news and follow social media to see what's going on here, but there's no way to feel the pain of what our fellow Jews in Houston are going through without being here to see it for yourself," Shapiro said. "Now that I'm here, the pain is obvious - I'm seeing kids the same age as mine who come from regular, successful families, but right now have nowhere else to go to dinner," he told the JHV as volunteers served another 1,000 donated kosher meals from Beren that day. "Even those who weren't directly impacted by Harvey are obviously here to support those who were," Shapiro said. "It's amazing to see the unity in Houston." JHV: MICHAEL C. DUKE

Houstonians were treated to an emotional release during a Mordechai Shapiro concert after two weeks of Hurricane Harvey relief efforts.

Nachum Segal came down to Houston as part of his Jewish Unity Initiative, which presents special broadcasts and events from Jewish communities around the world. The popular web-radio host told Houstonians that his goal in broadcasting from Houston is two-fold: "to offer moral support" to families impacted by Harvey, and to inform "the world that we need financial support in Houston to help the Jewish community." Shapiro told the JHV that he is a music teacher at the Hebrew Academy of Nassau County, which began its new fall semester earlier this week. "Today was our second day of school," the singer said. "I told them I have to take off today and they sent me with blessings. "As a teacher, I want my students to know - to see - that this is what we do for each other as a Jewish community," he said. JHV: MICHAEL C. DUKE

Volunteers enjoyed double-decker dancing during a Harvey-relief concert by Mordechai Shapiro at Beren Academy.

Historians, volunteers collaborate to save synagogue archives after flood

Thu, 09/07/2017 - 10:20am
A week-and-a-half after Hurricane Harvey's floodwaters tore through synagogues near Brays Bayou, historians from Rice University and University of Houston rushed in to help local rabbis and volunteers to salvage a century's worth of irreplaceable historic materials that otherwise would have been lost amid the wreckage, they said. At Beth Yeshurun synagogue, thousands of records and photographs were plucked from Harvey's floodwaters, then laid out to dry on tarps spread across the building's cavernous Stein Hall, whose flooring has been stripped bare to its concrete slab after taking in floodwaters during the storm. Josh Furman, Ph.D. is a post-doctoral student at Rice University who is writing a book on Jewish Houston, both past and present. "Hurricane Harvey has forced me to re-think the book's ending," Furman told the JHV on Tuesday, Sept. 5, as he surveyed the room of damaged photographs, documents and other archival materials, strewn across Beth Yeshurun's floor. As Furman knelt down for closer inspection, Beth Yeshurun's Rabbi Sarah Fort was seated a few feet away, attempting to remove dozens of photographs from a collection of leather-bound albums that had suffered water damage. Beth Yeshurun was scheduled to host a welcome party for its new, young rabbi on the Sunday after Hurricane Harvey made landfall. The event was canceled when Brays Bayou crested earlier that morning, causing widespread flooding to the area. "This is my community now," Rabbi Fort told the JHV. "It's my responsibility to be here, sleeves rolled up, gloves on my hands, trying to help save what otherwise will be lost." Rabbi Fort said she called for additional hands via social media, while Furman reached out to colleagues in academia to help save Jewish Houston's flood-soaked archives. Melissa Kean, Ph.D., is Rice University's Centennial historian. She raced over to Beth Yeshurun on Tuesday afternoon to offer labor and lend her expertise. "Just because papers are damp doesn't mean they're dead," Kean told the JHV at Beth Yeshurun. "The trick is to stick dry pieces of paper in between those that got wet, which then flattens everything out," she said. Kean and Furman performed a similar procedure earlier in the week at nearby United Orthodox Synagogues, which took in several feet of floodwater, devastating the building and its contents, including records dating back to three of Houston's earliest Orthodox congregations, which later merged to become UOS. The historians gave priority to a cache of minute books kept by the founders of UOS proto-congregation Beth Jacob. After Furman painstakingly layered the wet pages with dry ones, Kean packed up materials that required further attention and took them home that evening to continue the salvage operation. "I brought home half-a-dozen boxes worth of big, thick minute books," Kean said. "I spread them out on my dining room table and on my dining room floor and got air on them. "They were all drying pretty well, except for one," she said. "The wettest happened to be the original minute book, from 1937, which starts with the first organizational meeting for Beth Jacob." The Rice historian took the tome upstairs into a bathroom, set her hairdryer to cool and began to dry its pages. Warm air promotes mold growth, Kean noted. "We can deal with wet, but mold is death," she said. "It took a while, but I dried it out, page by page, and managed to save the whole thing." With that book and others stabilized, UOS gave Kean permission to take the archives over to the Woodson Research Center at Rice's Fondren Library, where preservationists will complete the restoration process. "I'm just an archivist and historian, working on the fly," Kean said. "But, we have people at the Woodson Center who have real specialization, who know how to unbind everything and treat the pages to prevent future mold growth." Kean and Furman are encouraging Beth Yeshurun to similarly allow Rice to help save Beth Yeshurun's own flood-damaged archives. They noted that the service also is available to anyone in the community who suffered flood damage to historic materials at home or at other community institutions. Kean said community members should email her at [email protected], subject line: "Jewish Houston," for help. "As people muck out their houses and go through their filing cabinets, we're interested in preserving those materials," Kean said. "Rice is interested in collecting those materials so they will be safe and preserved." Saving Beth Yeshurun's archives has been a collaborative project. Besides scholars from Rice and clergy from the synagogue, other volunteers, including an historian from University of Houston, have joined the effort. "This is my third day volunteering," said Bernice Heilbrunn, Ph.D., a lecturer from UH's Jewish Studies program, who also teaches for the Florence Melton School of Adult Jewish Learning at the Evelyn Rubenstein JCC. "Rabbi Fort posted a call for help on Facebook," she told the JHV on Sept. 6. "I responded, because I want to help preserve the history of Beth Yeshurun." She added, "When I arrived, I was very proud of the fact that there were already so many volunteers here, including a lot of students - maybe 1,000 people between staff, a remediation crew and volunteers." While Heilbrunn happens to be Jewish, her Rice colleague, Kean, isn't. "I'm Greek Orthodox and we value tradition, from generation to generation, like the Jewish people do," Kean told the JHV. "I don't want to be responsible for breaking that chain." Kean said she has spent the past 20 years at Rice, compiling materials that help tell the story of Jewish Houston. "Every time I saw something Jewish in an archive, I'd copy it and set it aside," she said. "Over the years, there have been some spectacular finds." "I'm more proud of saving those Beth Jacob minute books [in the aftermath Hurricane Harvey] than I am of anything else that I've done in a year, because once they're gone, they're gone," the Rice historian said. She added, "This is not just the history of Beth Jacob or the history of United Orthodox. This is Houston. This is our city and I don't want that to be gone."

Shlenker to host Bertha Alyce classes due to Harvey

Wed, 09/06/2017 - 9:19pm
The Shlenker School has opened its doors to the Evelyn Rubenstein JCC's Bertha Alyce Early Childhood Center, which suffered flood damage to parts of its building from Hurricane Harvey. Beginning Monday, Sept. 11, five Bertha Alyce classes, with some 70 students in all, will be housed at Shlenker, according to school leaders. The rest of Bertha Alyce's classes temporarily will be moved to the J's tennis center as building repairs are underway. "Being able to help our community is part of our 'Core Values' at Shlenker," said Lisa Sachs, the school's director of Communications. "It's also part of this overall spirit we're seeing in Houston right now of everybody trying to do what they can to take care of others, to allow those who were impacted by Harvey to go through the recovery process and to rebuild their lives, rebuild their homes, rebuild their schools and rebuild their businesses," Sachs told the JHV on Sept. 6, shortly after plans to welcome Bertha Alyce were finalized. "Shlenker is fortunate that we can do that," she said. "We have the space and we have an amazing staff, who are willing to be flexible with what they need to do to be able to provide this to families at Bertha Alyce." She added, "I can't think of anything more incredible than to be able to give back in this way." Toddlers, pre-K 3 and pre-K 4 classes are among those from Bertha Alyce that are being housed at Shlenker for the time being, according to the agreement. Shlenker also has agreed to take on the J's after-school program, which serves some 65 students. The after-school program will be held in Shlenker's gym. Repairs to Bertha Alyce's building are expected to take about four weeks, after which time classes will return home, according to J leadership. "We are delighted by the support we've received from Beth Israel and The Shlenker School to help accommodate some of our programs as we go through this transition," said Joel Dinkin, the J's executive vice president. While Beth Israel's sanctuary took in 4 feet of floodwater and the synagogue's basement also suffered heavy flooding, Shlenker, which shares a campus with Beth Israel, escaped Harvey's wrath with minor damages, in comparison. As a result, Shlenker was able to resume classes on Tuesday, Sept. 5. Last Wednesday, the school launched an online campaign through its website - - to assist families at the school who were impacted by Hurricane Harvey. According to school leaders, Shlenker has 64 students - more than 20 percent of its student population - who were displaced by Harvey's floodwaters. More than 40 percent of Shlenker's staff were directly impacted, as well. The school has been collecting financial donations and gift cards and distributing that aid to families in need. Meanwhile, Shlenker is providing lunches to flooded students. The school has given flooded staff members temporary leave so they can focus on recovery. To fill those immediate vacancies with qualified teachers, Shlenker turned to educators on its regular sub list, and former teachers at the school have been volunteering their time. In addition, Shlenker parents have been helping out. While Shlenker and Bertha Alyce will keep the integrity of their respective programs as they share space, there will be occasions, such as Shabbat services, where the schools anticipate some overlap. "This will create opportunities to come together as a community," Sachs told the JHV. Shlenker is able to welcome Bertha Alyce without displacing or combining any of its own classes. "Our classes will go on with their curriculum and their teachers, and Bertha Alyce will do the same," Sachs said. To avoid potential problems caused by increased traffic at Shlenker over the coming weeks, the two schools have agreed to stagger drop-off and pick-up times. Houston's Jewish community has a history of day schools opening their doors to community members impacted by storms and flooding events. Several local Jewish day schools, including Shlenker, welcomed students from New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Goldberg Montessori School is still located at Brith Shalom synagogue after its original home at United Orthodox Synagogues suffered severe damage during the 2015 Memorial Day Flood.

Flood-impacted students ease back into school 'routine'

Tue, 09/05/2017 - 12:14pm
At some Jewish day schools in Houston, it might be back to school for the first time since Hurricane Harvey, but it's far from being back to normal. Students from Robert M. Beren Academy returned to classes on Tuesday morning, Sept. 5. More than 30 families at the school - about 20 percent of the entire student family population - were directly impacted by the storm, though school leaders said those numbers are expected to climb as the administration continues to reach out to parents. Some students who flooded showed up at school Tuesday morning wearing street clothes, because their school uniforms were lost or packed away, they noted. Others were without backpacks and supplies for the same reasons. "It's hard to come back to school," said Shira Garner, an eighth-grader not in uniform, whose house in Willow Meadows suffered flood damage. Garner said she slept over at a friend's home the night before, which helped her, emotionally, prepare to return to classes, she noted. In the hallway outside her locker, Garner was embraced by friends. "Honestly, I want to be somewhere else right now," Garner told the JHV. "I'd rather be with my family, but I understand why it's important to come back to school." It helps that she has siblings at the same school, Garner added. In the lower school wing, Rachel Koual was walking to class with a group of fellow third-graders. Rachel said her home flooded, and she and her family currently are staying in a house arranged by teachers at Beren. "It's OK to be at school today," Rachel told the JHV. "It's good to be around my friends." School leaders told the JHV that they are offering extensive counseling services to students and parents, alike. Beren also is providing kosher lunches and snacks - through Sukkot, if needed - to students impacted by Hurricane Harvey. In addition, they are working on plans to offer tuition assistance to families in need. Teachers promised a light schedule and homework load during this first week back to classes, to help ease the transition, they noted. "Kids and families really need to get back into a routine," said Dr. Paul Oberman, Beren's head of school. "We ran a mini-camp at Beren last Wednesday, Thursday and Friday for the younger kids, because parents communicated to us how important it was to have the older kids out in the community, helping with relief efforts and doing all the amazing things they were doing," Oberman told the JHV. "But, at some point, even the older students need to get back to normalcy. "We are well-aware that there are many students who will be coming to school and going back home at the end of the day to help their parents with rebuilding efforts," he said. "Even students who didn't flood still are impacted by this event, because we are one, united community. "We need to support each other," Oberman said. After morning davening, students were gathered into assemblies. Rabbi Levitt, Beren's Judaics principal, spoke to upper school students about resilience. "The fact that you're all here today shows that you are resilient," Rabbi Levitt said. "We will get through this together." He added, "Everyone processes trauma differently. Besides your friends, the adults in this building are here for you. You don't have to deal on your own." On the issue of survivor's guilt, Rabbi Levitt encouraged students who didn't flood to be empathetic and helpful toward those who did. Rabbi Ari Kellerman is an upper school Judaics teacher at Beren, who is heavily involved in organizing chesed and tikkun olam projects with students outside of school, including flood relief. Rabbi Kellerman said Beren teachers must be "emotionally present" for students, especially now, in the aftermath of another catastrophic flooding event. Many families at the school also flooded during the 2015 Memorial Day Flood and the 2016 Tax Day Flood. "After past flood events, families agreed that re-establishing a normal routine is crucial to the recovery and healing process," Rabbi Kellerman told the JHV. "For children, especially, they need somewhere else to be every day, away from a destroyed house and heavily damaged neighborhood." Over the past week, school leaders have coached teachers on how to speak with students about their traumas. "We need to reassure our children that they have people, here, who love them and who will help care for them," Rabbi Kellerman said. "It's a good thing that we're back to school, though that doesn't make it less hard for a lot of people." Staff and college students from Yeshiva University are at Beren this week to assist students who were impacted by Hurricane Harvey. "There's no right way to cope with trauma," said Dr. Chaim Nissel, YU's dean of students, who helped lead the delegation. "However, there is a wrong way to cope with it. "The wrong way is by not dealing with it, avoiding the situation," he told Beren students. "That will set you up for more problems down the road. The way to get back to normal is to acknowledge what happened, to share your feelings and talk about what happened." Rena Schwartz is a Beren 10th-grader who didn't flood, but she spent the past week helping friends and families in the Willow Meadows neighborhood who did. "It's been a long time since we had school," Schwartz told the JHV. "People still need time to get emotionally prepared to come back, but our school knows everything that's going on with everyone here. "It's hard needing to be here, and also needing to be out in the community, helping people," she said.

JCC to end flood supply distribution, as facilities are needed

Mon, 09/04/2017 - 3:46pm
Monday, Sept. 4, is the last day that Hurricane Harvey flood supplies will be distributed from the Evelyn Rubenstein JCC's tennis center. The J had been a main site in Southwest Houston for the donation and free distribution of Hurricane Harvey recovery supplies, a week after the storm made landfall. The operation began last Thursday, Aug. 31, even as the J was pumping out floodwater from its lower level. "While we recognize that there are long-term needs, we now must transition focus on the Center's programs and facilities, as well as volunteer resources, moving ahead," the J's executive vice president, Joel Dinkin, told the JHV on Monday afternoon. Community members impacted by Hurricane Harvey praised the "heroic efforts" of JCC staff and hundreds of volunteers, who played a "vital role" helping people start their recovery process in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. With flood damage to portions of its campus and facilities, the J faces challenges to housing its Bertha Alyce Early Childhood Center and other programs, according to J leadership. Meanwhile, the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston has reached out to All Hands Volunteers, an international disaster relief coordination agency, to manage the outpouring of local volunteer resources, beginning Tuesday, Sept. 5, according to Lee Wunsch, CEO of Houston's Jewish Federation. All Hands will operate out of the Federation's building, which shares a campus with the J. Five days after the J converted its tennis center to a supply-distribution warehouse for flood supplies, Houstonians no longer could walk in and grab whatever they needed and wanted. On the final morning of distribution, people were asked to fill out a supplies list request, and staff and volunteers from the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston relayed the requests to their counterparts in the tennis center. From there, volunteers pulled available supplies and helped deliver them to people's vehicles. By Monday afternoon, volunteers were making arrangements for home deliveries for those in desperate need.

Dallas BBQ helps alleviate kosher meat shortage, makes flooded families feel 'whole'

Mon, 09/04/2017 - 12:36pm
A kosher barbecue crew came down from Dallas to provide thousands of hot meals for community members displaced and affected by Hurricane Harvey. Texas Kosher BBQ brought trucks full of food supplies, a portable smoker and grills to Robert M. Beren Academy on early Sunday afternoon, Sept. 4. They planned to cook through the night, providing some 2,000 meals for families in need, along with volunteers assisting with recovery efforts. Volunteers from Houston Kashrut Association, Beren Academy, Torah Girls Academy, Yeshiva Torat Emet, Young Israel of Houston, Congregation Beth Rambam, United Orthodox Synagogues, Kollel of Houston, TORCH, Chabad, Yeshiva University, Orthodox Union and others helped pack the meals into boxes and distribute them to recipients in Willow Meadows and the Meyerland area. "We got the smoker and grills up and going within 45 minutes of our arrival," said Chaim Goldfeder, owner-operator of Texas Kosher BBQ. He and other kosher caterers from Dallas worked with HKA to devise a rotation schedule, where they'd each handle certain weeks and Shabbat weekends, serving hot meals to families which lost their own kosher kitchens, due to flooding, and have faced kosher meat shortages in local grocery stores that also were impacted by Hurricane Harvey. The Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas is underwriting and facilitating the project. "Baruch Hashem, I have the skill set. I have the equipment. I've made the time to come down here," Goldfeder told the JHV. "This is what we're supposed to do right now - it's what we have to do." He added, "Our goal, here, is to make people feel whole again. Good food can be a great cure-all." Goldfeder was joined in Houston by a crew of eight barbecue mavens from his catering business. On Sunday, they began to grill and smoke their way through 400 pounds of shredded beef, 200 pounds of chicken cutlets and 800 hot dogs. In addition, they served mounds of baked beans, coleslaw and fresh garden salad. "We're not serving food, we're serving hope," said a team member, who declined to give his name, as he checked the temperature of meat cooking in the portable smoker. Tzivia Weiss, HKA executive director, was on-site to help coordinate the operation. "We reached out to our partners in Dallas, explaining that we faced a big problem in Houston," Weiss told the JHV. "We have no kosher meat. We don't know when we're going to get it, if we're going to get it. There are tons of Jewish families who need kosher meals right now." Three kosher caterers from Dallas agreed to put competitive business interests aside and combined their efforts to help a growing number of families in Houston who need assistance. Simcha Kosher Catering and Taste of the World are alternating Shabbat weekends, while Texas Kosher BBQ is covering weekdays. "They made 1,000 meals for [last] Shabbos and they're all gone, and we need more," Weiss said. "Right now, we're planning for 2,000 meals for tonight. Some of that includes volunteers. "The needs are growing, and we don't even know the final number yet for everyone who needs assistance," she said. "We're trying to make sure that anybody who wants a kosher meal has one. "And, we're talking substantial meals - real food - so they feel like a real person, not a charity case," Weiss said. Goldfeder said a lot of the food his crew and his colleagues are serving was donated by organizations and individuals from across the country and Israel. Financial donations to buy more food supplies have been flooding in, as well, he noted. "We posted a Facebook video last week on Wednesday," Goldfeder said. "In response, we've had $5,000 donations, $100 donations, $5 donations, all sorts." He added, "We need funds and we need food to keep this going." Goldfeder said his crew planned to cook all night Sunday at Beren. "Some people graciously offered to host us, so we can get some showers and maybe a few hours of sleep at some point, but we'll figure that out later," he said. Volunteers who were packing up the meals for distribution said it's "a huge group effort." "This shows the awesome power of love, hope and community - a community that extends to Dallas and far beyond," said Roza Gross, a teacher at Beren Academy who was helping with the operation.

Flood-relief concert offers families sense of 'normalcy'

Sun, 09/03/2017 - 10:25pm
With arms wrapped around each other, hundreds of flood-impacted families sang "Lean on Me" at the end of a concert by Jewish rock star Rick Recht. Recht, who lives in St. Louis, traveled to Houston in order to perform a free concert Sunday afternoon, Sept. 3, at Emanu El synagogue, where URJ Greene Family Camp and the Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center are co-sponsoring a day camp for children affected by Hurricane Harvey. The camp was supposed to end on Labor Day, but organizers decided over the holiday weekend to keep the operation going through Thursday, Sept. 7, and to expand registration to accommodate up to 300 children - 100 more than the first week of camp. Every child at camp, plus 100 more and parents, were treated to Recht's "Voices of Hope" concert at Emanu El. "Watching the news and seeing the trauma that people in Houston are experiencing, you feel so helpless being so far away," Recht told the JHV before taking the stage. "To have an opportunity to do something meaningful and to bring some joy, and to bring a break in some way, is an honor," he said. Riley Burck, 10, was part of a group of campers who were invited to help with the performance. "It was really cool to go up on stage during the concert," Riley told the JHV. The Burcks' home in Southwest Houston flooded after Bray Bayou crested on Sunday morning, Aug. 27. The displaced family was able to secure a temporary apartment on Sept. 3. JHV: MICHAEL C. DUKE

Rick Recht gave a private pep talk to a group of campers and staff before the concert who later joined the Jewish rock star on stage.

Riley said she and her younger siblings, who've been at the GFC-ERJCC Hurricane Harvey camp all week, have "sort of" talked about their flood experiences among each other. "When we have talked about it, we try to calm each other down, because my little brother starts crying," Riley told the JHV. "I try to help him." Ronnie Most brought his 3-year-old son, Rory, to the "Voices of Hope" concert. The Mosts thought they had escaped flood damage and even opened their doors to other families who were forced to evacuate houses in the Meyerland-area. Shortly after floodwaters receded, however, wood flooring in the Mosts' house began to buckle, apparently caused by water coming up through the foundation. "We've gone from helper to someone who now needs help," Most said. As Most and his young son entered Emanu El's sanctuary for the Rick Recht concert, Rory spotted friends and asked to sit with them. "Being here helps get my kid get back to some sort of normalcy, being with his friends," Most said. "Seeing the kids happy and being with their friends is really needed right now." At the start of the concert, GFC's Summer Camp director, Stefani Rozen, thanked the more than 350 volunteers who have enabled parents to focus on the start of recovery efforts by offering families a supportive environment for their children during the day. "The volunteers are really the ones who made this possible, spending time with our campers, keeping everyone safe and secure and making sure everyone is having a great time," Rozen said. Rabbi Steve Gross from Houston Congregation for Reform Judaism and Rabbi Adrienne Scott from Congregation Beth Israel offered words of encouragement during an extended version of Recht's song, "The Hope." "Open your eyes, open your hearts and sense the love that's all around you," Rabbi Gross said as audience members wrapped arms around each other. "Hope is all around us." Rabbi Scott added, "Our tradition teaches us that we are each responsible for one another. And, out of this great tragedy and destruction and devastation, perhaps there has been no better time to see this principle - not only in place for our community, our Jewish community, but in the entire community of Houston, and well beyond this city. "We feel for the first time, perhaps, that [Houston] is really like a small village, and that each one of us has our part in healing the brokenness around us, mending our souls and bringing us back together," she said. Riana Sherman, Program director at Congregation Beth Yeshurun, is assisting with the Hurricane Harvey day camp. Over the weekend, Sherman reached out to Recht and the musician responded immediately, agreeing to perform in Houston some 48 hours later. Sherman's husband, Greg, played percussion during the concert, while GFC's executive director, Loui Dobin, and others, offered rhythm guitar and supporting vocals. Recht, one of the top-touring musicians in Jewish music, told Houstonians that he was inspired by their resolve in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. "One thing that has really stood out," Recht said, "is the strength in community." He praised flood-impacted families who have shown "fortitude" and have focused on the "blessings" that Hurricane Harvey's floodwaters failed to way away.

New Years nourishment and more

Sun, 09/03/2017 - 5:12pm
Kenny and Ziggy's owner Ziggy Gruber made a vow to his grandfather, also a longtime deli man. "My grandfather always said, 'Listen, never open on a yontif. If you can't be closed three or four days a year, you shouldn't be in business.' I vowed to him I would never open on a yontif. But, this year is different," Gruber said. Gruber recognizes that Hurricane Harvey deeply affected the Jewish community. "So many people were displaced. So many have no place to cook in, no place to congregate with their families." So, Gruber is going to something he's never done in the 17-and-a-half years Kenny and Ziggy's has been in business. He will open the delicatessen on Rosh Hashanah, leave it open later than usual before Kol Nidre and have a break-the-fast after Yom Kippur. Gruber said K&Z's will take reservations for two special sittings on Erev Rosh Hashanah and the second night of Rosh Hashanah, with one meal from 5-6:30 p.m., and another from 7-9 p.m. There will be tablecloths on the tables and a special menu, including apples, honey and challah. The restaurant will be open until 6 p.m. on Erev Yom Kippur and will reopen for a break-the-fast meal at 5:30 p.m., Yom Kippur day. The break-the-fast also will have a special seating with a special menu and will require reservations. To reserve seats at any of the meals, call Jeanne Magenheim at 713-679-8453. The meals will not be kosher. Gruber said his staff, normally off on the holidays, saw the need and agreed to pitch in. He believes his grandfather wouldn't mind that he broke his vow. "If I can take the pressure off of hurricane survivors when they're wondering what they're going to do, it's a good thing," Gruber sad. "I think my grandfather would approve." Kosher restaurant Those looking for kosher meals on the holidays have another option: Genesis Steakhouse. Genesis owner Jason Goldstein said that High Holy Days meals are "something we always do." Restaurant patrons also can participate in High Holy Days services at Genesis. "We work in conjunction with Rabbi Yossi Zaklikofsky of The Shul of Bellaire," Goldstein said. "We will have a Rosh Hashanah dinner on Erev Rosh Hashanah at 7:30 p.m., with services beforehand, and we may do the same the second night, if there is enough interest." Goldstein said they would need to have at least 50 people interested in services and dinner on the second night for Genesis to provide both. Genesis also will hold services for Yom Kippur, and have a break-the-fast after services end. Reservations are required for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur meals, because the restaurant will not be handling money on the holidays. For reservations or more information, email [email protected].

Kosher steakhouse owner keeps hurricane survivors ship-shape

Sun, 09/03/2017 - 5:02pm
The aftermath of Hurricane Harvey has kept Genesis Steakhouse owner Jason Goldstein extra busy. In addition to donating kosher food to hurricane survivors who needed it when other city venues, including stores, ran out of kosher supplies, he's been rescuing people by boat and taking them to his house to provide them with temporary shelter. "I lost my home in the Memorial Day flood, so I know how it feels," Goldstein says. "I understand the need for help. Thank G-d Genesis did not flood, and I have a great staff at the restaurant including my best friend and general manager David Tenorio and my Chef Arturo Macias, who have given me the flexibility to help." Goldstein says he spent several days in a boat, picking up people who needed to leave their homes. He invited five of them to stay with him, his wife, and his two young sons. He also has worked with his staff to provide kosher food and meals to survivors of Harvey who were in desperate need. "I learned my lesson during the Tax Day flood," Goldstein said. "I stocked up on kosher food. I was prepared." In addition, Goldstein says a special event at Genesis Steakhouse on Friday, September 8 could provide some much-needed relief for hurricane survivors' suffering psyches and tired taste buds. The Bellaire Community Shabbaton, done in conjunction with The Shul of Bellaire, will feature Rabbi Dov Greenberg speaking on "After Harvey: Turning a Flood of Tears into Action." Evening services for the Shabbaton begin at 6:30 p.m.. and a full course gourmet dinner begins at 7. Tickets are $45 for adults and $18 for children, but any adults who suffered flood damage are welcome to join the dinner at no charge. Flood survivors can take advantage of the offer by e-mailing [email protected]. Others may make a reservation for the Shabbaton, by either calling call the Shul of Bellaire at 713-839-8887, or visiting

Synagogue hosts blood drive amid 'great need'

Sun, 09/03/2017 - 12:15pm
A blood drive being held at Brith Shalom synagogue, today, will exceed its goal of collecting more than 20 full units of blood, according to organizers. Brith Shalom's blood drive, taking place Sunday, Sept. 3, from 9 a.m.-1 p.m., comes at a time when Houston's Blood Center is in desperate need of donations, after Hurricane Harvey forced the cancellation of other blood drives across the city and prevented communities from flying in donations when the category 4 hurricane forced local airport closures. "The Blood Center is in the worst shape right now than it's ever been," said Brith Shalom member, Eric Lipman, who organized the blood drive and donated blood, himself, at around 11 a.m. "The center has had no new donations since last Friday," Lipman told the JHV. "The current demand is about 1,000 units a day." Other donors on Sunday morning told the JHV that they wanted to help save lives in the aftermath of the worst storm in U.S. history. "I've been donating blood for 50 years, but right now, it's more important than ever," said a 72-year-old donor, who preferred to remain anonymous. Five medical professionals worked as fast as they could as donors and volunteers lined up in the synagogue's multipurpose room. Lipman said he hopes life-saving blood donations will match the record-level rainfall from Hurricane Harvey that has brought widespread destruction across the region.

Undeterred by Hurricane Harvey, families still celebrate B'not Mitzvah

Sun, 09/03/2017 - 11:14am
After a week of round-the-clock recovery efforts from Hurricane Harvey, families in Houston's Jewish community came together on erev Shabbat, Sept. 1, to force a bit of rest and to celebrate a pair of simchas. Rachel Rosenberg became a Bat Mitzvah this weekend at Brith Shalom synagogue after her own synagogue, Beth Yeshurun, suffered heavy flood damage, due to Brays Bayou cresting on Sunday morning, Aug. 27, two days after the Category 4 hurricane made landfall. The Rosenbergs were reassured that the Bat Mitzvah celebration still would happen when Brith Shalom agreed to host the event, along with a free dinner after services for families impacted by the storm. With combined congregations, and clergy from both synagogues sharing the bimah, Brith Shalom and Beth Yeshurun began the Shabbat service by singing Mi Shebeirach - the prayer for healing. "I'm very happy that I can at still have my Bat Mitzvah," Rachel told the JHV as she was visiting with a group of friends in the Brith Shalom lobby, shortly before guests were ushered into the sanctuary. Rachel and her parents were stranded in Atlanta during the storm and only made it back to Houston on Thursday, Sept. 1, the day before her Bar Mitzvah ceremony. "I'm glad we made it back in time," she said. "But, most of our out-of-town guests really weren't able to come in - maybe just two families. "I was sad, initially, but I understand why they couldn't come," she said. Rachel's parents, Laurie and Jeffrey Rosenberg, said there was never any doubt about going ahead with their daughter's Bat Mitzvah celebration that weekend. "After speaking to our rabbi on Tuesday, we agreed that in the Jewish religion, we go through with simchas and other important life-cycle events, even during difficult times, such as these," said Rachel's father, Jeffrey. "The show must go on," he told the JHV. At Emanu El synagogue, Monica and Daniel Brooks also insisted that their own daughter, Scout Brooks, go forward with plans to become a Bat Mitzvah this weekend, despite the fact that Scout's Bat Mitzvah partner decided to postpone portions of the celebration for her family, who were forced to cancel travel plans due to the storm. "Most of our out-of-town guests couldn't come this weekend, but we told them not to worry, the service is going to be live-streamed from Emanu El, so they can watch at home," Scout told the JHV as family members who did manage to make it Emanu El posed for photographs with the Bat Mitzvah girl shortly before the start of Friday evening services. JHV: MICHAEL C. DUKE

Scout Brooks and her parents Daniel and Monica Brooks decided to go ahead with Scout's Bat Mitzvah celebration this weekend in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

Besides numerous cancellations, the Brooks also had to line up emergency replacements for catering and photography earlier this week, because those vendors were impacted by the storm. "We have lots of food coming and if there's extra, we can donate that to hurricane-recovery efforts," said Scout's mother, Monica. She added, "Those who couldn't make it are happy to know that we are all safe and we still have reasons to celebrate." At Brith Shalom, the Bat Mitzvah parents said the community needs a "happy moment" right now. "We want our daughter's Bat Mitzvah to bring a lot of happiness - not just to our family and friends, but to the entire community," Jeffrey said. Laurie, Rachel's mother, added: "We emailed our guests to tell them what was happening and almost everybody's response was that they are so glad we're still doing this. "It's a mitzvah on top of a mitzvah," Laurie told the JHV. "What Brith Shalom is doing for us is a mitzvah, especially." Read more stories from the JHV on Hurricane Harvey

Ohio shul welcomes Houston for Holidays

Sun, 09/03/2017 - 8:55am
Green Road Synagogue of Beachwood, Ohio, is opening its doors to Houston families for the High Holy Days. Not only will seats in the main sanctuary be open, free of charge, but the congregation is happy to provide individuals and families with home hospitality (place to sleep and meals). "We welcome you with open arms," is the message being conveyed to Houston flood victims. Contact the synagogue office, [email protected] or 216-381-4757 for more information.