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Charles O. Kaufman is a B’nai B’rith International senior vice president and resident of Austin, Texas. He shares updates on the work the organization is doing on the ground, to aid in recovery from the floods in central Texas. Read his account:

WIMBERLEY, Texas, May 31, 2015  — The grind of chainsaws chewing through roots and limbs of unearthed century-old cedars and oaks is unmistakable. The sight of homes and other structures swept off their foundations is horrifying. 

Law enforcement and others stand near blocked crossings where continued rain continues to make passage along certain main roads a risky adventure if not impossible. They direct locals and visiting relief workers, including those working on behalf B’nai B’rith and NECHAMA, to assigned worksites via unexpected, circuitous routes. The cleanup here is under way. 

By Sunday, toward the end of a long and hazardous week, the heavy debris from homes — saturated wallboard and other building material, furniture and grandfather clocks from another generation — are piled high along roadsides, awaiting pickup trucks from Hays County to haul away the trash heaps. 

The tasks for our volunteers today are relatively light as the cleanup continues. Supplies are unloaded. Dishes covered in the silt and stench of river water were rinsed, dried and stored. 

Mattresses, stained glass pieces and other fixtures are moved from a garage to other facilities or to a new stack of trash.

Homeowners offering endless thanks offer stories about being shaken in the middle of the night by a toppled dresser that was lifted off the floor by a sudden surge of water. Asked how high the water reached in a short time, one owner marks the height of the water to her neck. She tells of her family finding refuge by seeking high ground along Hill Country-sized mound at the back of the house. 

The volunteers reach a stopping point in the late afternoon. B’nai B’rith also working with individuals in nearby San Marcos to
help find housing for the NECHAMA workers. Currently, the Jewish disaster relief team has found housing made available free

for them.

Ross Topol, NECHAMA program coordinator, and a friend arrived in Central Texas from New Orleans, where he lives. During the day, he also was coordinating staff and volunteers working in Houston, where the individuals experienced displacement, heavy damage, and even deaths from the devastating rains. They anticipated six volunteers to join in and 35 showed up. Wimberley is home to Camp Young Judea, a popular Jewish camp in Texas, and while the camp took on significant water, no damage was reported. 

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