Wednesday, May 23, 2018


Even as that JFNA Mailbox, created in response to Hurricane Harvey and expanded, we think, to incorporate the unmatched needs created by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, failed to fill up to meet those needs, questions abound as to how JFNA might be best prepared to meet current and future catastrophes.

The current head of FEMA observed that from a government perspective, our country requires a "true culture of preparedness" -- a culture that JFNA needs to develop as well. The response to Harvey -- the rapid mobilization of human resources in Houston and under Mark Gurvis' leadership -- was superb; the best efforts of JFNA. As human resources were dedicated to Houston Gurvis refereed a blueprint on FedCentral:

"1) The most immediate need for volunteer groups and individuals is for help mucking out flooded homes. This is hard, physical labor - tearing up carpeting and tearing out wallboard, and carting that and ruined furniture and other household goods out of the home. Most of the Jewish homes affected (estimated at 1,000-1,200) have already completed this process but there are tens of thousands of homes in the general community that need this assistance quickly. The window for this kind of assistance is relatively brief - a few more weeks at best. The next stage will likely be for volunteer assistance for reconstruction. Here too, the greatest needs will be outside the Jewish community.
2) The Jewish Federation of Greater Houston is partnering with All Hands, a FEMA registered national disaster recovery organization, which has a special unit working with the Jewish community. All Hands will provide the on-site management, deploying volunteers to specific homes, supervising volunteers and providing equipment. Groups should call 1-800-820-5188 to get registered and scheduled. If you are bringing a Federation group please let me know when you are scheduled.
3) You need to be prepared to manage your own logistics for flights, lodging, meals and local transportation. All Hands and the local Jewish community do not have the capacity to handle this for you. Lodging will be the biggest challenge as available rental and hotel stock in the area has been absorbed by people needing temporary housing.
4) Your volunteers need to understand they will most likely be deployed outside the Jewish community, and the folks affected within the Jewish community know the drill and have a well organized community base of resources to lean on - they have already mucked out. Other populations across the region have fewer resources and more desperately need this help."
As remarkable was the human response to Harvey, it appeared in retrospect (and even at the time) to be ad hoc to the Harvey emergency even though years ago a protocol for just such an emergency response was developed by lead professionals at JFNA. Does anyone at 25 Broadway know where it is?

But, while human resources were well-coordinated and applied, financial resources, not so much. For example, in response to Hurricane Katrina— $32-33 million raised from the system — and, for some reason, only $23 million was distributed by JFNA (?). In response to Harvey, as we recently wrote, JFNA had been able to raise only $2 to $4 million. All one can ask is "why" -- "why" was so little raised in response to this dire emergency?

And, a bit later, Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico. In response New York UJA-Federation mobilized assistance to that beleaguered American community. Along with New York affiliated agencies New York UJA was on the scene. You can read of NewYork's effort in JTA at Where was JFNA? Mailbox...Maybe a letter.

And the lack of major response to the devastation of Puerto Rico evidenced the lack of any comprehensive plan to address the future natural disasters sure to come. 24 hour "Fly-Ins" to Houston led by JFNA's Vice-Chair are not a "plan;" they are way too self-congratulatory, as is JFNA's way. 

As we've written, JFNA pros had developed a continental protocol in anticipation of future disasters. Sadly, I would wager that today, no one at JFNA even knows where to find that protocol. Sadly, tragically, it is a certainty that there will be future catastrophes; JFNA will confront them anew as if none came before and none will come after.

The "JFNA way,"


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Richard, could you please post the distribution report published by JFNA from any emergency?

I have searched high and low and cannot find one.

The first time I looked was the First Lebanon war and I was told that JFNA hired someone to prepare the report. I am still waiting. 2nd Lebanon war. Katrina and every subsequent disaster, still no reports that I can find.

It seems that JFNA is really good about announcing how much money we “raised”, but reporting, not so much....

Curious that in essence JFNA has gone out of the campaign business and has become the national allocations committee of all disasters. One might think that at least they would report where are money went.

When there is no publication of such results it requires one to wonder why.

What is it that they are hiding?

I, for one, won’t be giving any more emergency funds to them without available reports after the fact.