Dear Friends,

There is danger in the air! That is why my daughter and grandson have left their home in Miami Beach and headed inland to Orlando. Now it is the people of Florida who face a potential “natural disaster,” and there are many of us with relatives and friends who are confronting the same ordeal. Yes, they are scared as they don’t know what awaits them as they anticipate Hurricane Irma and the destruction that she may bring.There is danger in the air! That is why my daughter and grandson have left their home in Miami Beach and headed inland to Orlando. Now it is the people of Florida who face a potential “natural disaster,” and there are many of us with relatives and friends who are confronting the same ordeal. Yes, they are scared as they don’t know what awaits them as they anticipate Hurricane Irma and the destruction that she may bring.
                
As this epic story is unfolding, to some degree we are all being tested. To what extent do we feel compassion and empathy for the people of Houston and now the people of Florida? And to what extent have we declared “count me in” when it comes to lending our support to the overwhelmed people who have lost so much, and the others who now face another possible catastrophe?
                
As a Jew, I think of the commandment of our Torah: “You shall not stand idly by while your neighbor bleeds.” It is an admonition against passivity and apathy; a call to each of us to do “something” for these unfortunate people who are feeling overwhelmed by what they have experienced, and the uncertainty of the coming days. The people of Houston ask, “how will we rebuild our lives?” The people of Florida ask “will my home be destroyed?” and “can I escape the wrath of this onslaught?” Yes, the future is uncertain and the trauma profound.
                
Amidst all of the loss and anguish, we read of stories of great heroism; people who have risked their lives to save strangers, and a tiny country that has sent dedicated relief workers to Houston to provide comfort and assistance with the massive challenge being faced by these people. That “tiny country” is Israel, and amidst our emotions, we have good reason to feel proud of Israel’s response to these needy people.
                
Far removed from the headlines is the story of Israel’s direct involvement in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, and Israel’s response to so many people who, as a result of Israel’s efforts, feel that they are not alone in confronting the devastation that has befallen them. Three Israeli teams, including IsrAid, have arrived in the Houston region with disaster management experts, mental health professionals, and engineers to help with debris removal and trauma relief. (At the same time, IsraAid volunteers are also providing urgent support to communities in Sierra Leone and Nepal, both of which have also been hit by devastating floods this month).
                
For the people of Houston, and now for the people of Florida, may they be strengthened by the knowledge that we care about them, and that we are reaching out to them as we are able. So true is the observation of one of our sages that “all of life is as a narrow bridge, and the most important thing is not to be afraid.”

***At this time, we are asking our members to make their contributions to the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston. The money will surely go toward immediate and worthy causes, and we will not have stood idly by.

Shabbat shalom,   

         Rabbi David Greenberg