This article originally appeared in the JTA on March 22, 2018.
By Ben Harris
Avram Mandell is no stranger to disaster zones. As the founding director of Tzedek America, a Los Angeles-based social justice group that runs relief trips for Jewish teenagers, Mandell helped out in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in the wake of a devastating 2016 flood.
So he was hardly surprised on a recent trip to the Houston area with 15 California teenagers to discover floodwater still in homes six months after Hurricane Harvey decimated the area.
Then, in February, seven Jewish organizations announced the creation of the Leadership Coalition for Jewish Service and ActNowHouston. Organized by Repair the World, a decade-old Jewish group that partners with community and Jewish organizations in about a half dozen U.S. cities to mobilize local volunteers to address urgent needs, the coalition aims to maximize the impact of Jewish efforts in Houston. It launched a website to enable groups to register online for service trips; is offering some financial support to cover the cost of getting groups to Houston; is planning more frequent trips; and is coordinating closely with groups on the ground to make sure aid efforts go where they are most needed.