Jewish communities, like others across the state, are taking steps to address their own needs. In Dallas, one of the region’s two Jewish senior living centers lost both its main power and backup generator, forcing the staff to quickly relocate residents to the area’s other senior center — fortunately it had spare room, having just recently opened.
Two Orthodox Jewish-run emergency response units, Hatzalah of Dallas and the newly formed Texas Chaverim, both founded by a local resident, Baruch Shawel, sent out patrols to assist residents with dead car batteries, medical emergencies and other issues.
“It’s been pretty wild out here,” Hannah Lebovits, a professor at the University of Texas-Arlington who lives in an Orthodox community in north Dallas, said of the rolling blackouts, which accompany other problems like loss of heat and water pressure. “Thankfully in the Jewish community, very often we quickly create our own mutual aid systems.”
Still, Lebovits said, “It shouldn’t be Chaverim doing that. It should be the city of Dallas knocking on my door and checking on me.”
In Houston, too, Jewish leaders are leaning on coordination groundwork laid long before the unusual cold snap set in. Traumatized by the patchwork Jewish response to Hurricane Harvey’s devastating floods, the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston had convened the Jewish Response and Action Network in early 2020, even before the pandemic.
“After Harvey, each shul made its own response. They made their own food. It wasn’t coordinated,” said Jackie Fisherman, the network’s director and the Houston federation’s director of government affairs. “We thought there must be a better way.”