HOUSTON – New carpet, new chairs and fresh air fill the sanctuary at Congregation Beth Yeshurun on Beechnut.
The sanctuary will reopen just in time for the Jewish high holidays.
"There has never been a greater test for this congregation. We are blessed to be a part of a community where Jews and non-Jews are there for us,” said Rabbi Brian Strauss, of Congregation Beth Yeshurun. "I have been so impressed by the people in this congregation. Almost every member gave of him or herself. Whether it was volunteering their time or giving their money, so that we could rebuild."
All of the building had at least 1 foot of water inside. Up to 5 feet stood in the sanctuary.
"Everything in here was pretty much destroyed. All of the prayer books. All of the Bible commentaries," Strauss said.
Strauss said Christians, Muslims and others in the Jewish community helped rebuild his place of worship even as a quarter of the homes of his congregants flooded, too. He said they did it with the help of the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston. The federation got the word out and raised the money needed to help this and six other flooded Jewish institutions.
"There has never been another community that has been impacted by a natural disaster in this way so hard hitting both to individuals and families but also to Jewish institutions," Avital Ingber, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston, said.
Not far away, time lapse video from inside what was a senior adult lounge at the Jewish Community Center in Meyerland shows what it looks like when the Brays Bayou swallows your world. The floodwaters broke the windows and flowed inside. The water kept going until it reached the ceiling.
"It was sick to watch over time the water coming in and filling up knowing that you cannot do a thing about it,” said JCC CEO Joel Dinkin. “It was awful (the video). And I actually did not want it to be released publicly. But my staff said no. People need to see it and the impact here."
The JCC rebuilt in phases and prioritized the needs. Among the items at the top, child care, its Meals on Wheels program and the fitness center. The renovations have cost about $6.5 million. The goal is to make the JCC like it was before it ever met Harvey.
"I think it was also somewhat of a blessing because I think we learned to appreciate what we have and value what we need in life and also value each other," Dinkin said.