Maayan Bobylev has had a front-row seat to the unprecedented decimation from Hurricane Harvey in Houston, which poured two feet of rain on the area last weekend and made a second landfall in Louisiana Wednesday.
She lives in the Nob Hill Apartments, situated on Brays Bayou, which overflowed onto the streets. In the heavily Jewish populated area, at least three synagogues, the JCC, a Jewish community resource center and several kosher grocery stores and restaurants have flooded.
“This is like Parshah Noach,” she said. “Nothing like this has ever happened here. It’s really unreal.”
She, her husband, Chaim, and their 6-year-old daughter, Oriyah, and 4-year-old son, Noach, have stayed dry in their second-floor apartment, but the first floor in their building flooded. Sunday, the Red Cross airlifted residents out of the complex.
In Baltimore and beyond, Jewish communities are stepping up to help those affected by the hurricane. Locally, The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore and the Jewish Federation of Howard County are facilitating donations. A local folk singer has also planned a benefit concert.
Speaking to the JT Monday morning, Bobylev and her family planned to stay put. “In either direction of where we are there’s major flooding,” she said.
The synagogue she and her family attend, Congregation Torah Vachesed, flooded for the first time. Its mikveh and Rabbi Avraham Yaghobian’s house also flooded. United Orthodox Synagogue flooded, and Bobylev said congregants of Meyerland Minyan had to be air rescued.
The Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center also flooded as did nearby TORCH (the Torah Outreach Resource Center of Houston). Nearby Jewish-populated neighborhood Maplewood was “totally devastated,” she said.
She said the community is still making sure everyone is safe as search and rescue continues, so there hadn’t been much time to organize anything as of Monday. Chabad was working to take kosher meals to shelters where there wasn’t access to kosher food, and kosher food was being bused in from New York and Dallas on Tuesday, she said.
She’s been in touch with people in Baltimore such as philanthropist Frank Storch, whose Project Ezra of Baltimore is raising money for volunteer water rescue workers, and life coach Rivka Malka Perlman, who is also rallying to help the Houston Jewish community. Bobylev has been sharing that information with other locals via WhatsApp to boost morale.
Storch has been working to connect various volunteers and organizations looking to help in Texas.
“We’re all praying all over the world that there shouldn’t be any more loss of life and that the water should recede as quickly as possible,” he said. “They should all know we stand with them and care very much about the entire Houston community.”
Storch was also in touch with Miami resident David Goldwasser, who has been a volunteer EMT for five years. He was driving to Texas with two men who are retired from Army special operations with years of experience in search and rescue in combat. The trio bought a boat they found on eBay in Homosassa, Fla., and went to a neighboring Wal-Mart to pick up the boat supplies they’ll need. They were also planning to meet up with a group of Orthodox EMTs from New York Monday night.
“We know the good people of Texas wouldn’t hesitate for a moment to come to us,” Goldwasser said, “and living in South Florida, we are definitely at the same risk Texas is.” Goldwasser has lived in Florida for 25 years and said he’s experienced about a dozen hurricanes including Andrew.
Goldwasser attended Talmudical Academy and Yeshivas Lev Shlomo in Baltimore, and his parents both know Storch as well.
“If anybody knows Frank, he’s the first person to jump in and help,” Goldwasser said. Storch’s fundraising will support Goldwasser’s work, Goldwasser said.
In Baltimore, The Associated has set up a special fund to which community members can donate. Donations will be accepted at associated.org/ texasrelief, or can be mailed to Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund, The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, 101 W. Mount Royal Ave., Baltimore, MD 21201. One hundred percent of the funds will go toward relief, and the organization is working with Jewish Federations of North America and FEMA to ensure the funds go where they are most needed.
“[We] will be continually researching ways that we can provide in-kind support to the organizations and people in need. This is an unfolding event, and we will continue to assess our response as the needs evolve,” Associated president Marc B. Terrill said in a prepared statement. “In times of crisis, this is the strength of the Federation system in action. We will work with our partners in the region including the Federations, JCCs and other organizations in the area to address the most pressing needs to those who need assistance.”
The Jewish Federation of Howard County posted a link to the JFNA fundraising page on its Facebook page.
“Our hearts and prayers are on America’s Gulf Coast with the victims of Hurricane Harvey,” the Federation said via Facebook. “As torrential rains continue to wreak havoc, Jewish Federations of North America has set up a fund to help those in need, working with its network of local and international partners to respond quickly and effectively. Help us help them.”
Donations can be made via bit.ly/JFNATexas.
Baltimore folk singer Sonia Rutstein, who performs as SONiA of disappear fear, will be performing a benefit concert Sunday at 7 p.m. with her band and special guests at the Corner Community Center, which is home to Congregation Beit Tikvah, 5802 Roland Ave., Baltimore. Suggested donations are $18 for adults and $10 for those under 21. Rutstein and her band were supposed to perform at the Kerrville Folk Festival in Texas, which was canceled. She encouraged other Kerrville artists to host benefit concerts in their hometowns.
“The music will be a sweet combination of acoustic, rock, blues, Latin, folk, Israeli and reggae,” Rutstein said via email. “All the musicians are donating their time and talent as well as the CCC.”
Gourmet Again in Pikesville is selling local resident Alice Moffet’s “collage cards” and donating all of the money to relief efforts. She describes them as “eye candy.”
“It’s a nice way to give back,” she said.
Hurricane Harvey made landfall last Friday evening near Corpus Christi, about 200 miles southwest of Houston. At least 10 people have been confirmed dead in the flooding as of press time.