The Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas, which was earlier tagged as a “health crisis management team” to coordinate the local response to the COVID-19 pandemic, has now pulled up its socks in offering help to the citizens of Dallas who have been ravaged by the brutal coldwave.
Known for their excellence in public service, Jewish communities worldwide are lauded for their humanitarian efforts in battling a calamity. Now, stepping up their game in Dallas, where a snowstorm has taken down the entire city, a team, consisting of rabbis from each denomination along with CEOs of local Jewish agencies, have challenged the occurrence that has crippled large swaths of Texas and left millions of people without reliable access to heat, electricity or clean water.
“I keep saying this is what Federation was built for,” said Mariam Shpeen Feist, the group’s president and CEO. “We were built to respond to crisis.” The group has gathered aid for seniors and people without electricity, Synagogues and their congregants are offering shelter to those without power and the community has partnered with Kosher Palate, a local kosher restaurant, to deliver thousands of meals to Jews without power — a project the restaurant began on its own and accelerated with the federation’s aid.
As of Thursday morning, nearly 500,000 homes and businesses remained without power, with large sections of the state’s grid remaining down. Hospitals are running out of water. Some 7 million residents are under a boil-water advisory. At least 30 deaths linked to the storm have been reported. And residents are burning furniture to stay warm, according to reports.
“It’s pretty dire in the city right now,” Steven Adler, the Jewish mayor of Austin, the state capital, told a local TV station on Thursday morning as he joined many Texans in asking why the state’s energy grid was not prepared for sub-zero temperatures. “It’s too much to ask of anybody. People are angry and confused and frustrated, and I am, too.”
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.”