Archive | Dallas Tornado

Greene Family Camp and Temple Emanu-El rally to help families impacted by Dallas tornadoes

Greene Family Camp and Temple Emanu-El rally to help families impacted by Dallas tornadoes

Posted on 25 October 2019 by admin

Greene Family Camp partnered with Temple Emanu-El Youth Learning + Engagement to put on a day camp at the synagogue, which is open 9 a.m. through 3 p.m. through Friday, Oct. 25, for children whose schools have been closed due to the storm.

By Kate Bigam Kaput

Editor’s note: This article first appeared on and is reprinted with permission (

On Sunday night, the Dallas/Fort Worth area was hit by severe thunderstorms, including 10 confirmed tornadoes, which devastated parts of Dallas and the surrounding communities and directly impacted members of the Jewish community. On behalf of the Reform Movement, our hearts and prayers go out to all whose homes, neighborhoods, schools, and businesses have been damaged and to all who are displaced. 

The staff of our URJ Greene Family Camp (GFC) immediately knew they wanted to mobilize to help affected families by providing child care, parent education and communal gathering opportunities. They partnered with Temple Emanu-El Youth Learning + Engagement to put on a day camp at the synagogue, which is open 9 a.m. through 3 p.m. through Friday, Oct. 25, for children whose schools have been closed due to the storm.

“This day camp served some of the families most deeply affected by the tornadoes, allowing parents to meet with insurance agents and begin the process of recovery while we provide a fun, kid-centered place for their children to play and have fun,” says Rabbi Andrew Terkel, director of year-round programs at GFC.

The day camp was a combined effort between the camp and the synagogue, with help from Eli Cohn-Wein, executive chef of the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center of Dallas (himself an alumnus of the Reform Movement’s camping system) and several GFC summer staff members who stepped in to help.

The program was decided upon and announced late Monday night, and by Tuesday morning, the initiative was up and running, complete with arts and crafts, music, cooking, sports, obstacle courses and face painting.

Though schools have since reopened, GFC and Temple Emanu-El stand ready to continue to assist those who were displaced or otherwise impacted by the storm. Their staff and programming remain on standby through end-of-day Friday – just in case families still need child care during the day.

The Reform Movement has rallied to aid those impacted by past natural disasters, including Hurricane Harvey. Then, too, Greene Family Camp played a leading role in efforts to help and provide support to those most affected by the storm.

“It’s nice to be able to do what we are best at and be helpful to the community,” Rabbi Terkel says, “and we’re so glad to have such strong synagogue partners like Temple Emanu-El in best serving the Jewish and wider community of Dallas – not just in tough times, but all the time.

How You Can Help

If you want to send assistance to those impacted by the recent tornadoes in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, consider sending gift cards to the two local Reform congregations that are gathering donations to be shared with those in their community who are most in need. Here are their requests:

1. Temple Shalom is collecting gift cards to Target, Lowe’s, Kohl’s and Home Depot.

Schools to the south of Temple Shalom have been damaged beyond repair (in the Dallas Independent School District), and more than 100 families have been displaced in the synagogue’s neighborhood district, the Richardson ISD.

The temple has offered its facility space for affected organizations in need of meeting space and made sure members know they can come to the synagogue for electricity and hospitality. The congregation is providing ongoing updates on its website as a means of updating its members about how they can offer donations and provide additional help. 

Donations should be sent to:

Temple Shalom of Dallas

c/o Steve Lewis, Executive Director

6930 Alpha Road

Dallas, TX 75240-3602

2. Temple Emanuel of Dallas is collecting Visa gift cards, as well as gift cards for Corner Bakery and HEB Grocery (which can be purchased online).

These gift cards will first be distributed to those impacted within the synagogue community, and any unused or unclaimed donations will be distributed to other community partners whose members are in needs. Donations should be sent to:

Temple Emanu-El Dallas

c/o Karen Hoffman

8500 Hillcrest Ave.

Dallas, TX 75225-4204

See more photos from this partnership between URJ Greene Family Camp and Temple Emanu-El on the camp’s Facebook page, then check out GFC’s year-round and summer programming offerings.

Have something to say about this post? Join the conversation in The Tent, the communications and collaboration platform for congregational leaders of the Reform Movement. You can also tweet us or tell us how you feel on Facebook.

Kate Bigam Kaput is the assistant director of messaging and branding for the Union for Reform Judaism and, in this role, serves as a content manager and editor for A prolific essayist and lifestyle blogger, Kate’s writing has been featured in The Washington PostEsquireWoman’s DayCleveland Magazine,, Jewish Women Archive and more. Kate, who grew up at Temple Beth Shalom in Hudson, Ohio, holds a degree in magazine journalism and lives in Cleveland, Ohio, with her husband.

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Jewish community members share  tornado stories

Jewish community members share tornado stories

Posted on 23 October 2019 by admin

Perhaps the tree she loves the most is the one that Tina and her husband planted on the occasion of their son Jonathan’s bar mitzvah.
‘If it can be rebuilt, it’s not tsurris’

By Sharon Wisch-Ray

The EF3 tornado that terrorized Dallas residents for about 30 minutes Sunday night, damaged many and destroyed some homes in the Jewish community. Reports of significant property losses on Janmar, Palomar and Currin, Northaven, Lavendale near the JCC and around Walnut Hill and Midway were reported. 

Near the JCC

TJP food columnist Tina Wasserman and her husband Dr. Richard Wasserman were watching the Cowboy game when they heard the sirens sound. Tina told Richard that she thought that the storm might be nearby and they should take cover. 

“We closed all the doors to the hallway and sat in the hallway in chairs. You could hear some rain coming and then no rain. Then all of a sudden my ears started popping. And I said wow that’s so interesting and it was dead silent. Then all of a sudden I hear chun, chun, chun. Not like a train. And then you heard things pelting the house.” The door Wasserman was leaning against was rattling.

The power went out immediately and when it seemed the storm had passed the Wassermans got up and started looking around for damage. At first Tina thought the damage was minimal, her office seemed OK. When they opened the door to her daughter’s room she realized that the window had blown out and a tree hit it and there was glass everywhere.

Eventually, the Wassermans ventured outside. Wasserman, who lost all her trees, said all her neighbors were home, they were all accounted for and relatively unharmed. The house across the street from her was virtually leveled and that homeowner suffered a broken ankle. 

Wasserman said she will miss her trees the most. When the Wassermans moved into the home on Lavendale in 1982, there was only one pecan tree on the west side of  their home. That tree seems to have weathered the storm.

In addition to losing their trees in the front and backyards, the Wassermans lost a good part of their roof and a tree fell on Tina’s car.

Debris is strewn across their once magnificent backyard.

Inside their home detritus from the ceiling and attic is scattered about from the rain that came later after the tornado.

Even so, Wasserman realizes they are incredibly lucky.

“In my family we say tsurris [trouble] is when time and money can’t fix it. So, this is not tsurris. It is frustrating, it is nerve-wracking and it is very sad.”

Walnut Hill and Midway Area

Janet and Robert Elkin live right Midway between Royal and Walnut Hill.

“We knew it was going to be bad rain. It wasn’t until my phone went off that we realized there was a tornado warning and my husband and I went in the closet.”

Janet said the sound was like nothing she’d every heard.

“I’ve been down here 29 years. I can’t even describe what the sound was like of the wind. It was unbelievable. You knew it was something different.”

Janet said that most of the damage to her house consists of roof damage, tree loss and broken windows. Power lines in the neighborhood are down.

“This is what nature can do. You don’t give it the street cred you should.”

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JCC’s be. event is on for Saturday

Posted on 23 October 2019 by admin

Shearith Israel will host J City Limits

The JCC announced Tuesday that it will move forward with it’s annual be. event Saturday night. Shearith Israel will host J City Limits which will begin at 7:30 p.m.

The JCC sent an email out to its stakeholders Tuesday night.

“While the JCC suffered significant damage to the campus, we are extremely fortunate that our building weathered the storm with little impact. Many of our JCC families have been affected and our hearts and prayers go out to all whose homes and neighborhoods have been effected.

“We are blessed to live in a community that comes to the aid of others when necessary. So many individuals and Jewish organizations have reached out to us offering assistance.

“After careful consideration we have decided to move forward with the be. event. Now more than ever, we as a community should come together in support of our JCC.”

To purchase tickets and support the J, please contact Karli at

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In wake of Tornado, JFS ready to serve

Posted on 23 October 2019 by admin

‘We can serve as the hub,’ says JFS official

By Sharon Wisch-Ray

Executive Director Cathy Barker intends for Jewish Family Service to be the hub as Dallas community members, Jewish and non-Jewish, assess the damage, rebuild and recover from Sunday’s storm. The Jewish community sustained significant damage from the EF3 tornado.

Although closed for Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah, JFS has already begun to field emergency calls.

“As you can imagine, Most people do not recognize or have an idea what their needs are at this point,” Barker said. “What we’ve found is that people are reaching out to us and referring to us in a variety of ways regarding what sort of resources are needed. It’s those very unique things like, ‘My child is struggling with we can’t be in our home, and they don’t have a school to go to and so how do I talk to them?’”

As a member of Dallas County Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD), JFS meets monthly with all the key nonprofits including Salvation Army and the ones on the scene. They get regular updates and communicate those to stakeholders.

Also, JFS has been in touch with Jewish Family Service in Houston. Because of its experience with Hurricane Harvey in 2017, Houston JFS has valuable wisdom to pass along.

JFS plans to post live updates of resources available and has a landing page “Dallas Tornado Resources” on its website Clicking on “Dallas Tornado Resources” will lead folks to both JFS resources and other community resources that are available.

JFS anticipates that as the next several days unfold, they will need additional volunteers to do welfare phone checks, work in the food pantry and deliver kosher meals. It is likely that some of their regular volunteers have been affected by the storm.

The volunteer opportunities can be accessed at the bottom of the tornado resources page or by clicking the volunteer tab at the top of the webpage.

If new to JFS it’s necessary to fill out an application. If you are already a volunteer, available shifts will be posted.

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Tornado blows through Northaven Gardens

Tornado blows through Northaven Gardens

Posted on 23 October 2019 by admin

Northaven Gardens was virtually leveled after the Oct. 18 tornado, but its historic marque, shown here updated, weathered the storm.
Beloved since 1951, nursery will be rebuilt

By Sharon Wisch-Ray

When Sunday’s EF3 tornado plowed through Northaven Gardens, a fixture on Northaven Road since 1951, the nursery was all but leveled. NHG was started by the late Muriel and Ralph Pinkus, and now owned by Lillian and Jon Pinkus.

General manager Cody Hoya explained that the oldest building is a “pile of rubble.”

Other buildings, the art gallery, the café, administrative offices and a small community conference room suffered various degrees of damage.

“With the odd characteristics of storms like this, there’s complete destruction and the marquee has every letter in tact.” That marquee has been updated to say, “NHG WILL BLOOM AGAIN.”

Hoya said that there is an active and enthusiastic plan to rebuild. Initially, his team will analyze the property, continue the care of the plants that need it and plan for the future and how they can better utilize the space.

He explained that the whole experience has been surreal and emotional. 

“All of us who are part of the family of employees hold it very close that we are part of a family history like this one. The outpouring of support among our employees has been unbelievable as has been the support of our patrons and customers.”

Hoya said that Pinkus family has been particularly touched by the outpouring of support from the Jewish community.

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Federation, JCC buildings damaged by tornado

Federation, JCC buildings damaged by tornado

Posted on 23 October 2019 by admin

Photo:Courtesy JFGD 
The facade of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas after the Oct. 18 tornado.

Twister decimates Federation interior, J on Wheels

By Sharon Wisch-Ray

Two key Dallas Jewish community institutions suffered major damage from the EF3 Tornado that cut a 15-mile swath from I-35 to Richardson. The Aaron Family Jewish Community Center and the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas which share the same campus at 7800-7900 Northaven Road were hit hard by the twister. 

Because it was Sunday night, the JCC was already closed when the storm hit and no one was in the building or on the campus. The JCC and Federation were already scheduled to be closed on Monday and Tuesday in observance of Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah.

The JCC, 7900 Northaven

JCC president and CEO Artie Allen ran through the significant damage that was known on Monday afternoon. 

“We have a lot of damage to the outside of the building. We lost our J on Wheels. It’s gone, we found it but it’s destroyed,”  he said referring to the JCC’s mobile unit which travels around bringing JCC programs to where Jewish people are out in the community at large. The state-of-the art trailer landed in the front yard of Bruce Birnbaum across Northaven from the JCC. The white pick-up truck which tows the trailer was also totaled thrown from the Federation parking lot into the fence that borders Northaven Gardens.

This is the second time in four months that the JCC has been pummeled by a severe storm. The June 9 windstorm damaged trees and fencing and knocked out power.

“This is much more devastating, much more devastating.” said Allen.

There is debris on the inside of the building that needs to be cleaned up he explained. The biggest issue is that the Donsky gyms took on water from gashes in the roof. There is standing water on the wood floors. All in all, Allen says he believes that the J was lucky because no one was on the campus or hurt. “Someone was looking out for us,” he said.

At press time Tuesday, the J planned to remain closed on  Wednesday. When it reopens will depend on when they can get power to the building which was still out Tuesday night.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas, 7800 Northaven Road

While JCC will be able to restore operations in its own building as soon as possible, the interior damage to the Federation is extensive. 

“Our building is severely damaged. We won’t be back in it for a number of months,” said Mariam Shpeen Feist, Federation president and CEO. 

Federation COO Gary Wolff was the first on the scene about 7:45 Monday morning. Based on what he had heard about the damage at the JCC, he was expecting something similar at the Federation. “I walked inside the building and ceiling tiles were everywhere,” Wolff said. “As I walked around the Federation the sounds got louder [ water beneath his feet] and the water was more visible.” He estimates that there was approximately four inches of water.

Meeting Wolff at the Federation was Vincent Gammieri, the Federation’s director of Information Systems and Operations. The pair headed to the server room and began salvaging computer equipment.

Over the last four months, the Federation has been working on continuity planning in the event of needing to move their operations offsite in an emergency.

JFS was part of that plan, and the Federation will operate out of the JFS boardroom through Friday. Depending on when the JCC gets power restored, the next step would be to move to the Mankoff Center on the second floor of the JCC until next steps can be determined.

At press time, the Federation planned to be up and running Wednesday morning in the boardroom of Jewish Family Service through Friday. 

“From the outside view of everyone in the community, nobody will be able to tell the difference, said Federation Board Chair A.J. Rosmarin. “It’s a tribute to the staff. Everything will keep rocking along.”

Feist echoed the sentiment that the professional staff of both the Federation and other Jewish community organizations have been unbelievable.

This is about being there for the community to rebuild, our resilience and to be strong. I’m incredibly grateful to our agency and partner executive leadership. It’s been exemplary.

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