The images of devastation coming out of Texas have been heartbreaking, as Hurricane Harvey has been described in the news as the worst such disaster in U.S. history. Seeing the suffering of others moves something inside of us to reach out and help.
These natural instincts are enhanced by teachings in our Jewish tradition such as "You shall not harden your heart, nor shut your hand from your needy brother, but lend him sufficient for his need" (Deut. 15:7), "Do not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor" (Lev. 19:16), "Justice, justice shall you pursue" (Deut. 16:20), and "Anyone who saves a life is as if he saved an entire world" (Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5).
With these teachings in mind we are providing links to a variety of organizations that are accepting donations to help the many victims of Hurricane Harvey.
- Jewish Federation of Greater Washington's Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund, in coordination with The Jewish Federations of North America (100% of the funds will go immediately to help those in need).
- The Greater Houston Community Foundation: The Greater Houston Community Foundation (GHCF) has been designated by the mayor of Houston as a recommended site for donations.
- Jewish Federation of Greater Houston: Fund to Support Harvey Recovery Efforts
- Chabad of Corpus Christie -- This fund is for the specific support of the Coastal Bend Region - in and around Corpus Christi, TX.
- Nechama -- Jewish Response to Disaster
Of course, in addition to donations of money, a traditional response to disaster has always been prayer. Below is a prayer that is an adaptation of two separate prayers written by Rabbi Fred Gutman and Rabbi Samuel Barth:
Avinu Shebashamayim, God of the heavens: nature and all that You have created are truly awesome. Often, we take these wonders for granted. Teach us to cherish all of your gifts.
Try as we might, we know that we cannot control the oceans, the mountains, the weather. We also firmly believe that ever since the time of Noah, You do not send floods, make the earth shake, or dispatch weather formations, such as hurricanes, as warnings or punishments.
So we ask, as the effects and aftermath of Hurricane Harvey are felt, that You shelter all who have been left in its path. Watch over everyone, their loved ones, friends, fellow human beings, and pets, including the many who have been forced to evacuate. Guard them as they leave their homes and guard those who are sheltering in place. Grant them strength, courage, and resolve. Answer their prayers and ours that they be blessed with goodness and be spared from harm.
We ask too that You grant wisdom and strength to those responsible for rescue, for administration and coordination-the first and last responders. May they find the strength and courage, the insight and judgment, the love of humanity to do their best to bring wisdom and technology to alleviate suffering, heal injury, and restore the services and infrastructure to the people of the devastated communities.
May we all give support, encouragement, love, and gifts to the best of our abilities.
Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech Ha'Olam sh' kocho u-gevurato mah-leh olam.
Blessed are You, Source of Life and Nature, whose awesome power and strength fill our world and inspire us to be strong in the face of all of life's difficulties.
Rabbi Michelle "Mina" Goldsmith