By Ben Tinsley
DALLAS — A group of Texas Torah Institute Beis Medrash students drove to Houston earlier this month to help victims stricken by the flooding there in late May.
“The need was there, so we sent all the boys we could,” explained Rabbi Daniel Ringelheim, a head of TTI’s Beis Medrash (advanced post-high school yeshiva) program. “They rented a (vehicle) and drove four hours there. Not only did they help people move their things, they gave mini-classes in the synagogue while they were there.”
The 11 students volunteered June 7 through June 10. They specifically were asked to help victims in Houston’s Meyerland neighborhood, one of the Jewish-populated areas hit the hardest by the flood.
Splitting into two groups, some students traveled to Houston in a rented Suburban, while others took a car owned by the father of Jacob Winston, 21, a TTI Beis Medrash student from Dallas.
While in Houston, the TTI students stayed in the homes of members of the Jewish community not afflicted by the floods.
Rabbi Ringelheim said the TTI students on the trip included Winston, Baruch Korn, Aaron Deutsch, David Hajar, Avi Kurtzer, Avi Yachnes, Eli Schwartz, Boruch Wexler, Moshe Rothman, Moshe Levinger, and Elchonon Deitsch.
Officials have said as many as 5,000 Jewish households were affected by the flood. Much of the water that swallowed homes was as contaminated as sewer water, necessitating that furniture and belongings be thrown away.
On their first day, the TTI students helped deliver meals to the houses of victims in Meyerland, said Aaron Deitsch, 19, a TTI Beis Medrash student who hails from Queens, New York.
The next two days the students helped victims get ready to move out by packing up their belongings and throwing away their contaminated furniture.
“It was pretty intense,” Deitsch said. “There was a lot of damage there. The floodwaters were all gone by the time we got there but you could see where it had been.”
Jacob Winston said it was difficult watching good people deal with such horrible circumstances.
“So many people there needed help and just a little help — like packing up boxes for them to move — made such a big difference to them,” Winston said. “There was a lot of trash in people’s yards. People had to tear out the bottom of their walls because of the floods.”
Baruch Korn, 20, a TTI Beis Medrash student from Houston, agreed it was a sobering situation.
“I remember the look on this one woman’s face,” Korn said. “We couldn’t calm her. All we could do is help her move her stuff. … There were piles of trash outside every house — some as big as 5 feet high and 20 feet wide. The houses were a wreck and you couldn’t breathe without a mask.”
Rabbi Ringelheim said the students were happy to help in Houston because TTI teaches the importance of communal responsibility.
“Our boys came back tired from all the work they did — but also invigorated with that sense of kindness one gets for having helped others,” the rabbi said.
Deitsch agreed, but said he also feels good about volunteering in Houston because he had the opportunity to meet many other volunteers from other institutions.
“There were so many people there from other Jewish communities who all came together in the midst of this tragedy,” he said. “They were there to do whatever was needed to help. It was very inspiring.”