The devastation from a pattern of torrential rain and flooding that has killed 19 people in Texas and Oklahoma Tuesday is being felt in one neighborhood in Houston where a sizable portion of the city’s Jewish community lies.
Houston’s Meyerland neighborhood, which lies on the city’s southwest side, was one of the more heavily affected areas due to its proximity to the Brays Bayou. Flooding can occur during heavy rains when the Bayou overflows.
Pat Pollicoff, president of Houston Congregation Beth Israel, said their sanctuary was flooded Tuesday with about one foot of water that came as far as the third row.
“The sanctuary literally faces toward the bayou,” she said.
Pollicoff said she does not think any of the Torah’s were destroyed since they were sitting on a raised bimah. A number of events scheduled in the sanctuary this week, including Thursday’s graduation ceremony and Friday night Shabbat services.
“We had crews working overnight last night to pump all of the water out, which is nearly complete. Carpets will have to be cleaned and dried and some replaced, but it will be in good enough shape that we will be able to prepare for a large Saturday night wedding that we have scheduled in there,” she said.
Congregation Beth Israel is home to about 1,500 families, many of which live close to the bayou and suffered damage as a result of the flooding, Pollicoff said.
“We’ve asked them to let us know if they need any assistance because we want to help in any way that they can,” she said.
The Schlenker School, adjacent to Beth Israel, was closed Tuesday after parts of the campus were flooded, but has since reopened, said spokeswoman Lisa Miller.
One of the hardest hit congregations was United Orthodox Synagogues of Houston, which sustained extensive damage after it was submerged in three feet of water.
Lee Wunsch, president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston, said the city was virtually immobilized Tuesday, making communication very difficult.
“There was total paralysis yesterday (Tuesday) so today was really the first day we’ve been able to figure everything out,” he said. “Having gone through these disasters before, it usually takes two, three, four days before we know how many homes, institutions and families are affected.”
Rodi Franco, the federation’s Chief Marketing Officer, said the Bellaire and Willow Meadows neighborhoods were also severely affected. She said she can relate to people who lost possessions in the storm, having suffered through $70,000 in damage during Tropical Storm Allison in 2001.
“Your car was flooded. It was sitting on the street. OK there’s no more water it all drained out. But you’re waiting for the assessor,” she said of what she endured during that storm.