September 5, 2017

Massive Response to Harvey Disaster by Kosher Community

Houston - Amongst the areas hit the hardest by Hurricane Harvey are the Jewish communities of UOS (United Orthodox Synagogue) and Meyerland with their large number of kosher consumers. Two of the area’s supermarkets, Randall’s and HEB that cater to the kosher community were flooded. Hundreds of homes were similarly affected with many displaced people moving in to homes of friends, relatives and good Samaritans that live in areas not ravaged by Harvey. The response by the kosher community in communities like Dallas, Miami, Lakewood and New York was nothing short of extraordinary. As many as two dozen major kosher companies donated 11 pallets of food to arrive in time for Shabbat. Adir Posy who has been coordinating the response for the Orthodox Union was in constant touch with the community in Houston. Rabbi Nosson Dubin, the Rabbinic Administrator of the Houston Kashruth Association, said that the response has been overwhelming and “that we may already have as much food as we need, although I do not know what will happen going forward.” Rabbi Shlomo Gertzulin of Agudath Israel of America said that his organization was transferring as much as $30,000 - $40,000 to have a local caterer provide kosher meals for the victims of Harvey. In Monsey, volunteers prepared to drive a truckload of supplies donated by Evergreen Kosher Supermarket and Amazing Savings. Items include shampoo, water, packing boxes, tape, pillows and towels. The Achiezer organization, which was so effective in the aftermath of Sandy, was also arranging for a shipment of food and supplies. The Season’s kosher food supermarket chain was also involved in the pick-up and distribution of foods.

According to Yakov Yarmove of Albertson’s, the parent company of Randall’s, the chain is responding to the needs of kosher consumers whose homes were devastated by Harvey. They expected to open Randall’s by last weekend. Many families ate their Shabbat meals in a local Jewish day school. A major force in the relief effort in Houston has been the Chabad organization which arranged for two 18-wheeler tractor-trailers with kosher food. Chabad is also working closely with FEMA to get the shipments and other urgent supplies to the affected areas. One local Jewish activist said that the response by the Jewish community has been “awe-inspiring.” An estimated 50,000 Jews live in the Houston area with a strong 400 Orthodox Jewish community. He said that many non-Orthodox Jews buy kosher regularly and were similarly devastated by the disaster. According to kosher sources, Houston has been a growing kosher market in recent years particularly in supermarkets like Kroger, Randall’s and HEB.