By Shimmy Blum
The images of the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey has haunted viewers from around the world, but for those in the eye of this “500 year storm” the devastation is incalculable. Houston has a sizable Jewish community, including many Orthodox families. Hundreds of the community’s members have seen their homes destroyed, with much of the damage not covered by insurance. The emotional and financial toll this has taken on their families cannot be described.
In addition to all the trauma and pain, these families are literally lacking food for the immediate future. Much of the food in Houston, in stores and warehouses, etc., has been destroyed. Kosher food is even more scarce. The primary local kosher retailer is submerged in eight feet of water.
As a result, a group of Jews from Texas and beyond immediately got to work to ensure that the Houston community would enjoy hot kosher meals. A long list of individuals, organizations and businesses are assisting in this effort, including Rabbi SholeyKlein of Dallas Kosher supervision; Dovid Geldman, Executive Director of the Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce’s Texas branch; Rabbi Aryeh Feigenbaum of Congregation OhrHaTorah; Rabbi Ariel Rackovsky of Congregation ShaareTefilla; Dallas Area Torah Association Kollel; Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas; Houston Kashruth Association; AgudathIsrael of America; the Orthodox Union; South Side Sandwich Shop of Lakewood; and many more.
Two Dallas based food establishments, both members of the Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce, were particularly instrumental to carrying out this effort: Simcha Kosher Catering, led by Lowell Michelson, and Texas Kosher BBQ, led by Chaim Goldfeder. As Mr. Goldfeder explains, you cannot overestimate how comforting a delicious hot meal is for someone in pain. Ceci Katz and Ruthy Henkin of A Taste of the World catering donated a significant amount of food for the upcoming Shabbos distribution.
Simcha Kosher Catering prepared and distributed 2,000 Shabbos meals. Texas Kosher BBQ will be preparing and distributing1,000 hot kosher meals a day for as long as necessary – at a minimum for a full week. Mr. Geldman and the proprietors of these two establishments are doing all this arduous, round the clock work for no compensation. “Texas is known for being ‘big,’ and that includes people having big hearts,” says Dovid. “We are working together to ease people’s pain and provide them with delicious hot meals.”
This effort, particularly under these circumstances, is exceptionally difficult. The proper food products, equipment and trucking needed to be procured, along with lots of manpower. Assistance from the U.S. National Guard was required in order to arrange for transportation to Houston, with many of the roadways flooded and/or closed.
“No task is too difficult when individuals and businesses unite and coordinate to accomplish on behalf of the common good,” says Duvi Honig, Founder and CEO of the Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce.
“That is the spirit of the Chamber’s mission,” adds Dr. Joseph Frager, VP of the Chamber. “We are very proud of what our members have been able to accomplish on behalf of the people of Houston, who have endured so much.”