Wilber Albarenga, left, and Alfredo Chavez, pump water from the United Orthodox Synagogues of Houston, which suffered extensive damage by flooding from a recent storm Wednesday, May 27, 2015, in Houston. (Gary Coronado/Houston Chronicle via AP)
Flooded Memorial Drive heading into Houston, Texas during the 2015 Memorial Day Flood
During the Memorial Holiday weekend on May 26-27, 2015, one of the worst floods in Houston’s history cascaded down upon the city, swelling its bayou water systems to the maximum and did extensive damage to two Jewish Synagogues and their surrounding Jewish communities.
The local weather forecasters were on 24/7 following this torrential rain, but as the residents were struggling to recover the damages, a second wave of torrential rains plus threatening lightning as the flooded streets and highways ground the city to a halt.
Numerous rainfall records were broken when by the end of the month of May, almost 15 inches of rain deluged Houston’s Bush Intercontinental Airport to the north of the city. It was now ranking this deluge in the fifth place as the wettest month of May. The wettest record was 15.87 inches in May of 1907.
Houston, now America’s fourth-largest city and home to more than 40,000 Jews, was paralyzed when many of the canals that run through the city (known locally as bayous) crested after torrential rains soaked the city. Some 8-12 inches of water fell in a matter of hours on ground already saturated by heavy rainfall during the last few weeks.
One of Houston’s major bayous runs alongside North and South Braeswood Boulevard, where two major synagogues are located and many of Houston’s Jews live. Numerous residents had to be evacuated by watercraft, including a rabbi emeritus from United Orthodox Synagogues of Houston, one of the two synagogues that suffered damage. The other damaged synagogue was the Reform temple Congregation Beth Israel.
According to the United Orthodox Synagogue which includes a community of over 350 families is still “reeling from last week’s devastating floods in the Houston area, with “over $1 million in damages” as reported by the synagogue President Max Reichenthal.
This synagogue is the spiritual home of a community of more than 350 Jewish families. It had suffered also extensive damage to its main sanctuary, which was refurbished following the last Houston floods in 2001 according to Synagogue President Max Reichenthal as told to Algemeiner.
In the thriving Willow Meadow region next the Bray Bayou where families today can still walk to the Shabbat Synagogue services, over 50% of the homes owned by Orthodox Jewish families were inundated with water flooding their home. According to Reichenthal, “we had a perfect storm, that’s what happened, and it’s a formula, there’s nothing you can do about it.
According to the city news, before the storm hit Houston, at least 31 people were killed as a result of flooding in Texas and Oklahoma when a slow-moving storm covered a wide area between the two states, dumping incredible precipitation. When the aftermath of the storm hit Houston, more than 500 water rescues were carried out by firefighters, which were predominately were stranded motorists and inundated vehicles and trucks. It has been estimated that over 2,500 vehicles were abandoned, when drivers had to seek higher grounds.
Click to Open – “U-Tube of Houston Brays Bayou Flooding with Aerial Quadcopter Footage (DJI Phantom) on May 27, 2015”
During the evening of May 25-26, over 11-13 inches of rain fell near Houston that then set off more flash flooding and inundated the cities bayous. Two people drowned when trapped in their cars and a third was discovered later drowned in the bayou. A fourth person lost its life when an evacuation boat capsized in the early morning of Mary 26. According to the city of Houston, over 4,000 properties sustained significant damages.
Yet, this storm was not the worst in the synagogues history, yet the “damages” from the flooding “appears to be the worst” according to Reichenthal who then added, “The first time wasn’t quite as bad, but the second time in [Tropical Storm] Allison in 2001 was very bad. We had just redone, actually, the synagogue, and added a wing that was higher up.”
For the Jewish people, the defining of life is how we identify with the struggles of life which the Almighty One of Israel gives to us. As Reichenthal stated, “The key is coming together to try to do as much as they can before the rebuilding. We’ll rebuild and we’ll be stronger and we’re hoping to get support from outside the community as well. And concluded with his thanks to the Houston chapters of Kollel, Young Israel and Chabad for supplying meals and manpower.
These last statements are what make the Jewish people so potent in their relationship with the world around them. To them, “The Synagogue” is the beit tefilah, or the “house of prayer” It is where they have their prayer services and satisfy their Torah obligations for daily prayer that may occur anywhere, anytime. Yet there are certain prayers that can be said only in the presence of a Minyan (a quorum of 10 adult men). According to the traditions of the sages of Judah, there is more merit to praying with a group than there is in praying alone. As such the sanctity of the synagogue comes only second to the sanctity of “The Temple”. As such in many places the synagogue is called the “little Temple.”
During the first days of crisis, a rescue was made to the home of the aging, revered and esteemed, Rabbi Joseph Ruben Radinskywho was the Rabbi of the United Orthodox Synagogues of Houston from 1976 through 2003. During this era he was also Chairman of the Houston Kashrut Association. During the Houston flooding, he had to be brought to safety by a Jewish rescue team.
Rabbi Barry and Gabby Gelman
Rabbi Barry Gelman is the chief rabbi of United Orthodox Synagogue, the largest Orthodox Jewish Synagogue in the Southwest. He came to Houston after being the Rabbi of the Congregation Shaar Hashomayim in Montreal, Canada plus was earlier the Assistant Rabbi at Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun and the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale both in New York.
As the founding Director of MeORoT of the Modern Orthodox Rabbinic Training and Torat Miriam, both fellowships for young rabbis interested in communal service, he vaulted to national prominence after receiving his bachelors and masters from Yeshiva University and received his Rabbinic Ordination from Rabbi Isaac Elchonon Theological Seminary that is affiliated with Yeshiva University.
On this certain night, May 27, 2015, Rabbi Barry Gelman, the chief rabbi of United Orthodox Synagogue, nearing the age of 50, had just returned home across the street from the shul. It was about 9:30 pm after the Shavuos services; the major Jewish holiday held on the 6th and usually the 7th of Sivan, fifty days after the second day of Pesach (Passover). As Rabbi Gelman explained what happened:
Rabbi Barry Gelman – “By 12:30 there was water rushing through the front door. Three of our five children were with us and we evacuated. We had to wade through four feet of water as we crossed the street to shelter in the shul (synagogue).”
While the Gelmans originally planned to spend the night in the shul’s beis medrash (Jewish study hall), that plan was quickly scuttled when water began seeping into the synagogue and surrounding rooms and offices. The family moved to higher ground: the shul’s social hall (Friedman Social Hall). As Rabbi Gelman continued:
Rabbi Barry Gelman – “We were the only family who was able to get to the shul safely. There were some people who swam across the street to go to neighbors on higher ground. We had heavy rains prior to Shavuos and the ground was saturated. It doesn’t seem that this kind of rain was expected and the fact that the storm just sat over the city and didn’t move was also part of the problem.”
Tropical Storm Allison was the next nearest flooding catastrophe that devastated the Houston area in 2001. Now 14 years late, those improvements were crucial to prevent future flooding during severe weather events were now “too little and too late.”
The water drainage improvements that were to have begun near the festival of Purim was expected to be completed in 10 months. For the Jewish residents of Willow Meadows and the Orthodox Jewish Synagogue, the delay was catastrophic. As the Rabbi continued:
Rabbi Barry Gelman – “I was just busy watching my house drown. For many people this is a replay of Tropical Storm Allison and it is just a devastating event. Eighty to ninety percent of the things I own are gone. My clothing, half of my library, our pictures, furniture, you name it. Anything that wasn’t on high ground is gone.”
In the meantime, the water continued to rise in the synagogue. As Rabbi Gelman continued in VIN News:
Rabbi Barry Gelman – “Every area in the shul, except the social hall which is raised, had water damage. There must have been eight inches to a foot or more in the shul. The shul’s elevated aron kodesh (Holy Ark where the Torah scrolls were kept) stayed dry, sparing the sifrei Torah (handwritten Torah scrolls the most sacred books in Judaism) from water damage.
This was a catastrophic flood. There have been other floods before but nothing ever like this. They are saying this is worst ever. Many, many of the shomer Shabbos people (person who observes the mitzvot (commandments) associated with Judaism's Shabbat ("Sabbath", dusk on Friday until sunset, Saturday.) in the area who live within walking distance of the shul were affected.”
The Women’s Courtyard (Ezrat Nashim) in the Flooded Synagogue with the Mechitza separating Woman and Male sections and the Elevated Platform (Bimah) to the right where the Torah is recited in the Houston United Orthodox Synagogue
A new realization of life, and a new dynamics were beginning to open up in the rabbi’s life as he pondered his and his Jewish present and future conditions. Yes, he did have flood insurance but the reality was not in the money but that there was a more elevated state of consciousness that we are on the verge of being transformed in our world. As she pondered further:
Rabbi Barry Gelman – “As devastating as this is, it is just stuff. No one was hurt in our community. People died in this storm in other parts of Texas and I have been thinking about how fragile and how easily destroyed the physical things are, which makes you realize the strength and indestructibility of the human capital. Morning brought with it an end to the rains and the beginning of an incredible display of human kindness.
People here have done unbelievable things. Right when the sun came up Tuesday morning members of my shul were out in kayaks and rafts evacuating the elderly from flooded homes to high ground. I got a call from someone asking me to move in with my five kids. We could be out of our house for months. Most of the floodwaters had receded by 1 PM on Tuesday, leaving community members to deal with the massive cleanup effort.
We have one crew that is tearing out carpets. Since the main shul is built on an incline, water gathers in front towards the bima (elevated platform to instruct from the Torah) and we are vacuuming out the water. We removed all of the seforim (sacred Torah scrolls) from the beis medrash (house of study) because of the humidity and any seforim that were on the bottom shelves are a total loss. All of the shul’s (synagogue’s) sheetrock has to be taken out a few inches above the flood line and we are arranging to turn the social hall into the shul for the foreseeable future.”
With schools closed due to the flooding, local students have pitched in, offering their services in flood ravaged areas. There are half a dozen high school yeshiva students from the Robert M. Beren Academy who have been in my house for hours, cataloging, bagging, and throwing stuff out. There is that same number of kids from public schools and day schools across the street in the shul, stacking books and moving chumashim (plural of the Chumash, the sacred text and commentary on the first 5 Books of the Bible) to the other side of the building.”
Comments from Destination Yisrael – “For four years, I spent many Shabbats with the United Orthodox Synagogue and there in the picture above, I can see the seat that I sat innumerable times. There is a certain aura of reverence as one listens to Cantor Emeritus Irving Dean intone lyrical phrases from the Torah elevating the Jewish minds to the realms of the Shekinah glory. And then on the sacred holidays when the haunting lyrics of Kol Nidre is sung on the eve of Yom Kippur.
There is a certain peace to worship by singing praise alone to the Creator G-d of the Universe. This is recreated every Shabbat service where with the tallit (prayer shawl) cloaked over my shoulders while sitting with hundreds in worship, one is also alone with HaShem, the G-d of Israel.
These are a people, highly informed in the ways of Torah, in love with HaShem, the G-d of Israel and with high expectation of their lives. The flood in Houston may soon be only a blip in their eyes, yet the 2015 Flood in Houston that inundated the largest Orthodox Synagogue in the Southwest could also be another warning for the Jews in America; it’s time to return home, to the land of their forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
This warning was studied in detail and posted on May 25, 2015, just two days before the flooding of the United Orthodox Synagogue in Houston as reported in the recent blog titled, “Jewish Aliyah aspirations (and Lost 10-Tribed aspirations) will awaken by the1000 Year Water Crisis in Western United States.”
Even so, the rabbis of the Land of Israel are ebullient in their wait for the Guela (redemption) as they wait for the Era of Melekh Ha Maschiach (King Messiah) to be revealed. Here we read the message from the Israeli rabbi, HaRav NIr Ben Artzi, shlita titled;
Message to the People of Israel in the Land and Across the World; from the mouth of HaRav Nir Ben Artzi, shlita for Parshat Vayikra 5771
HaRav Nir Ben Artzi, shlita – “The King of all kings, HKB"H, informs and requests beseechingly from all the Israeli rabbis: To unite, to remove all the divisions, to do away with every type of ethnic grouping. All (Lost Ten Tribes of Israel and Jews) are Jews, children of Ya'aqov Avinu [Our Father Jacob (Israel)].
To Ya'aqov (Jacob) there were children from Leah, Rachel, Zilpah and Bilhah. Am Yisrael (All Israel) is built from all types of souls and everyone is strong, holy and pure, clear and unblemished. Each neshamah (divine Soul that is part of man’s character as divine inspiration) takes upon itself a tikkun (to fix or to repair) to repair the whole world. There is no difference between Jews. Rabbis, go out toAm Yisrael. Make large conferences, sermons and prayers - in order to cancel the decrees of earthquakes and floods that are going to flood the world.
The dam/floodgates of Egypt will rise up on its banks and will burst out. They [floods] will be there and in many countries in the world; severe and harsh floods.
Our prayers are that those floods will not harm Israel, and will go in the direction of thegoyim (gentiles). And also, the prayers for the decrees from the direction of Lebanon, Syria, Aza (Gaza) and Iran to be cancelled – so that all their missiles will return to them, inside them, "Their swords will come into their hearts", and they will encounter difficulties and get into arguments with themselves.
Am Yisrael (Lost Ten Tribes with Judah and Benjamin) receive indications and hints that the Master of the World is purifying and cleansing the world; all for the sake of the little Holy Land of Israel - the greatest of all.
There will be forAm Yisrael (Jews and Lost Israelites) great and revealed miracles! Jews, unite, unify, lay tefillin (put on your identity with your tzit-tzits), keep the Shabbat (Seventh-day Sabbath) and fulfill the commandments (Torah Mitzvots)!
Each additional week HKB"H (HaKadosh Baruch Hu) is pressuring and collapsing all the evil imbedded in the world. There is a very difficult war between the spiritual powers of good and evil. Jews (Jews and Lost Israelites), choose the way of good, don't give in to the temptation of theyetzer hara (evil inclinations) and the vanities of the world. Walk in the path of good - this is suffering, suffering is anguish and anguish refines a Jewish person. Don't discount the hints coming from HKB"H (“The Holy One, Blessed is He”).
The Master of the World is not stopping and will not stop until all the evil in the world will be annihilated and untilMelech HaMashiach (King Messiah) will be revealed at the height of his glory.
You need to be very careful on the highways in Eretz Yisrael (land of Israel). There will be problems with the ships and the planes. Strong storm winds, earthquakes and the severe floods will continue. The human eye cannot see what is going to pass upon the planet and upon the people, upon the animals and even upon the trees.
The Master of the World is going to annihilate all the evil in the world. Whoever believes - "Mi l'Hashem elai!" (Whoever is for HaShem should join with me!) Whoever does not believe - misses the train.
All the synagogues in the Land of Israel - increase your prayers to cancel the decrees and threats sent upon Am Yisrael (both Jews plus American and European Israelites).
The strength of the rabbis in the Land is when they are united and unified they join together to protect each other. Then, there is no power in the world that is able to work against them joined in unity. They are the example for Am Yisrael (All Israel).
HKB"H (“The Holy One, Blessed is He”) is preparing a tribute toMashiach Tzidkeinu (Righteous Messiah) and a foundation for all the Jews in the world that will arrive to Eretz Yisrael (Land of Israel) and that are arriving to Eretz Yisrael. Mashiach Tzidkeinu (Righteous Messiah) is present, working and doing, and soon in our days will be revealed.”
BibleSearchers Reflection: As Lost Tribers of the House of Israel, our eyes filled with tears of joy are transfixed that one so noble as a Jewish sage has officially and publically broadened the vision of Judah. He has challenged the rabbanim to recognize that we as the Lost Tribers of the House of Israel are truly part of the chosen family of our Father Jacob, the Patriarch called “Israel”.
Not only that, Rabbi Nir Ben Artzi issued the clarion call to the rabbis of Israel; blow the shofars to all the lands of the world, we need “All Israel” (Am Yisra’el) not just the Jews of the Diaspora but also the Lost Tribes of the House of Israel to return to the lands of their forefathers.
To the House of Judah and to the House of Israel, it is time for both of you to be awakened to a new awareness. The divinely inspire concept that the Lost Israelites and the Jews of Judah are “One”. The existence and the reunification of both tribal families are central to the theme of salvation for all mankind. Truly in the heart of HaShem’s redemption of all mankind is the reunification and restoration of the entire family of the Patriarch Jacob; the Jews and Benjamites of the House of Judah, and the Ten Lost Tribes of the House of Israel.
The restoration of the Land of Israel to its former state as Gan Eden, encompasses the return and is contingent upon the reunification of both the House of Judah and the House of the Lost Tribes of Israel. The day of Ezekiel’s prophetic reuniting of the “two tablets” or the “two sticks” into “One” has now come (Ezekiel 37).
What we are reading here, thanks to HaRav Nir Ben Artzi, shlita is that both of us, the Jews of the Diaspora and Lost Israelites, have choices to make! We can no longer be fence-riders. The more we resist, the harsher the days of redemption will be all of us, the evil ones and the tzakkis (righteous ones).
G-d will send more floods, earthquakes, volcanoes, and tsunamis until our independent, autonomous, and our rebellious spirit is broken. Redemption is imperative so that “All Israel” (Jews and Lost Tribers alike), will be willing to come into a personal relationship with Him. If we were to respond today en mass, the final redemption without all the future hardships would suddenly fall into place.
Awaken O Lost Israelite! The G-d of your forefathers is calling you! It’s time to come home; physically and spiritually to Eretz Yisra’el (Land of Israel).
If you have wondered how biblical prophecy fits into your life, and how it will affect the Return of the House of Israel, then the G-d of Israel is beginning his “call” to bring you home, too. You might desire to reconnect with your cousins the Jews and the Biblical portrayals on what is and may be happening in your near future.
This Biblical portrayal includes Prophecies that the Lost Tribes of the House of Israel are about to return to the Land of their Biblical Inheritance. This is Divine Destiny in living reality as the 10 Lost Tribes of Israel return to their Homelands first in Shomron (Samaria), Israel.
For inquiries about the Kol Ha Tor Vision for the Lost Tribes of Israel,
Visit their Web Site
“Kol Ha Tor”,
They also offer – “a Spiritual Retreat and Guest House in Samaria that hosts Shomron (Samaria) Tours to reacquaint the Returning Lost Tribers of the House of Israel to their chosen destiny. For details refer to Shomron Lives!”,
DISCLAIMER - Kol Ha Tor is an independent commentator and may or may not agree with the contents, the views, interpretations and opinions as expressed by the independent theological and/or political views of Destination Yisrael