I wanted to take this opportunity to express my deep pride — truthfully my sincere awe — in our own Dallas Jewish community for the incredible galvanizing of time, effort, resources, caring and love in response to the tragic situation caused by Hurricane Harvey in Houston.
We have all seen the horrendous scenes of unimaginable devastation, of untold numbers of people who have lost everything and don’t even know where to begin rebuilding. Less well-known is the desolation in large swaths of the Jewish community. Prominent synagogues have been badly damaged or destroyed. DATA’s sister organization TORCH found its beautiful, newly completed learning center submerged.
The kosher-observant community in particular found themselves in precarious straits; the supplies provided by disaster relief did not address the kosher adherents. And, of course, they would not address the Shabbat needs of hundreds of families who suddenly found themselves without anywhere to turn to provide their families with that vital need.
Enter the Dallas Jewish community. So many organizations and people immediately stepped up to the plate to help in any way they could. Organizations and Jews throughout the country were calling Dallas offering products, a truckload of kosher chickens, wine and grape juice, etc. What was needed was a quarterback to call the shots and pull it all together.
Enter Rabbi Sholey Klein of Dallas Kosher. I personally witnessed Rabbi Klein, at all hours of the day and night, fielding calls locally and from around the country, organizing refrigerator trucks to transport food prepared in Dallas to Houston and trucks to receive the food for storage and distribution, to receive product from New York, Chicago and wherever else it was being sent. Among myriad areas of involvement, he was busy organizing the local kosher caterers and coordinating shipping and distribution with the Houston Kashruth Association (HKA). The matter-of-fact manner by which he carried this out (and continues to do so) was incredible and humbling to witness.
“Of course we’ll take care of them and make sure they all have warm meals for Shabbos and beyond — with a smile!”
Rabbi Klein was flanked by Rabbi Bentzi Epstein, who arranged trucks with Stevens Transport Chairman and CEO Steve Aaron and fundraising efforts. Rabbi Epstein called his daughter Wednesday afternoon of the first week of the flood and asked her if she could arrange challahs for Shabbos for Houston.
She asked how many — and he replied, “2,000!”
She answered, “No problem, I’ll take care of it.” She called together her friends from Mesorah High School and by 2 a.m. that night they finished baking 2,000 challahs for Shabbos.
Rabbi Klein contacted Lowell Michelson of Simcha Catering and, without batting an eye, he selflessly agreed to put together thousands of cooked Shabbos meals. With the help of many students from Torah Day School and members of Ohr HaTorah and others, he had them cooked, packed and shipped, providing a warm and joyous Shabbos to hundreds of families in Houston this past Shabbos. Rabbi Klein in conjunction with Chaim Goldfeder of Texas Kosher BBQ similarly arranged to have thousands of meals prepared, sent and served for the duration of the week. Taste of the World with Ceci Katz and Ruthy Henkin, in conjunction with the students of Akiba-Yavneh, are preparing thousands of meals to follow.
Bradley Laye and Mark Kreditor have galvanized the efforts of the JFGD and its constituent agencies to collect products, money and volunteers to collect, process and send truckloads of aid to Houston.
This week Rabbi Feigenbaum of Ohr HaTorah announced after Sunday services that a truck needed to be packed to leave for Houston. Immediately the entire congregation, young and old, formed a human chain (which I was proud to join), and hundreds of boxes and crates were packed on the sizable truck, in less than 15 minutes. Rabbi Feigenbaum has joined with Rabbi Rackovsky of Shaare Tefilla to coordinate this and other efforts, and list goes on and on! (I’m quite confident I’ve left out many, many people involved; please forgive me as I’m only mentioning what I’ve personally seen firsthand — and have not intentionally left out anyone.)
With Rosh Hashanah approaching and the Jewish people in need of merits before the Day of Judgment, I am quite confident that the Al-mighty is looking upon this incredible, selfless act of chesed — loving kindness — by an entire community for an entire community, and by extension many throughout the Jewish world who have participated from afar; this togetherness and kindness should serve us well to receive a kind and favorable judgment on the High Holy Days soon to be before us!