Dear Friends:

As you should expect, the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston has been closely following the dynamic situation posed by the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Our primary concern, now and always, is the safety and well-being of our communal partners, Jewish communal professionals, and those in our community who participate in programs and activities across Houston’s Jewish community.

Over the past two weeks, the Federation has been working closely with our local partners, and we wanted to share with you an update on our efforts in this regard. 

In January, the Federation established the Jewish Response and Action Network (JRAN), a coalition of representatives from our community’s institutional partners including synagogues, day schools, agencies and other organizations across Houston’s Jewish community.

JRAN’s founding purpose was to take a pro-active and collaborative approach to emergency management in the case of natural or man-made disasters. However, as news of the COVID-19 outbreak began to emerge, we modified last Thursday’s JRAN meeting to include a discussion on how to best prepare for and take a reasoned and unified approach to this challenge as a community. Fifty-seven representatives of our local Jewish institutions gathered for Thursday’s meeting and heard from Dr. Ed Septimus, an infectious disease specialist at Memorial Hermann.

Dr. Septimus provided attendees with an update on what information is known about the virus, generally, as well as its current presence in the Greater Houston area. We also shared a draft of an organizational pandemic response plan and invited our institutional partners to use and adapt it for their individual purposes.

We at the Federation recognize that, as this situation continues to develop, our community’s organizations will make their own determinations and action plans which they deem best suited to the circumstances specific to them and the constituencies they serve.  Our hope is that by sharing information which is both current and scientifically-based, we can best empower our community’s leadership to make informed decisions. You can count on the Federation to continue to update the JRAN network on this subject as we learn more and have useful information to share.
If you have questions about JRAN or if an organization with which you are affiliated has any specific needs related to COVID-19 that can benefit from the assistance of the Federation, please contact the Federation’s Director of Government Affairs, Jackie Fisherman, at . Jackie is monitoring the situation closely and in partnership with local officials.

Jewish tradition emphasizes that people should not feel isolated, especially during times of illness. As Jews, we are reminded of our obligation to one another and to all people. With that lesson in mind, we encourage compassion, empathy and patience as our community and the world continue to navigate these uncertain times.