Although Rivka Fishman has been living in Houston for 20 years, she still retains her Pittsburgh connections. Apart from growing up in Pittsburgh, Fishman’s son is a graduate of Yeshiva Schools, and two of her daughters are currently enrolled at the educational center. Though the girls were slated to start school this past week, they “missed their first week from school,” because of Hurricane Harvey. “They could not get back because all of the airports were closed,” Fishman said.
Much of Southwest Houston, where the Fishmans reside, has been submerged, said the former Pittsburgh resident.
“Our neighborhood near Chabad was pretty much the only Jewish area that didn’t flood. We had roof leaks and water in the windows. The water came up to about 5 feet from our front door and thank God it receded.”
An area “10 minutes away from our house” flooded, which is where the JCC and Federation are located, said Fishman. “Right away we knew people who needed help and reached out for help.”
Fishman and her older children have been manning the hotline for Chabad Harvey Relief. Such activities have enabled them to assist scores of residents in immediate need.
“Sunday night we found out that 30 people were staying in a hotel. We quickly put meals together for all of them. My husband and my daughter drove and tried to find roads that weren’t flooded to bring them food.”
Another effort involved “an older woman who refused to leave her home. She hadn’t eaten for probably 30 hours,” said Fishman.
Fishman’s husband waded through “almost waist high water to bring her food.”
“It is all hands-on back here,” said Fishman.
For example, one of Fishman’s daughters “planned and ran a camp for about 50 kids — either whose houses flooded or whose parents were working on other relief efforts.”
In another demonstration of communal support, “our entire community emptied their freezers and stashes on Sunday and Monday,” and cooked everything that they could find. The meals were then delivered to those lacking access to food. “We just cooked anything we had, we cooked rice, we cooked potatoes; whatever we had we prepared and we sent it.”
Apart from working with Chabad Harvey Relief, Fishman is part of a whatsapp group of 24 people who are coordinating relief efforts in the Houston area. “The amount of help that is coming out of such a small group is crazy.
“We had teams of people, my daughter included, who cooked as of Wednesday 600 meals.
“We coordinated a bake day that first day. We stocked the freezer with pastries and challah rolls,” Fishman said.
“We didn’t know how we were going to get it all done, we still don’t know. God got us into this and He’ll get us out.” pjc
Adam Reinherz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org