Jewish synagogue debuts upgraded, handicap-friendly space year after Harvey

The country's largest conservative synagogue is getting ready to reopen its doors one year after Hurricane Harvey flooded its main congregation area with up to six feet of water. The Beth Yeshurun Synagogue will debut its new and improved space just in time for the Jewish holidays in September. 

According to Senior Rabbi Brian Strauss, Beth Yeshurun has stood in its Meyerland campus since the early 1960s. For decades, Rabbi Strauss said the building went untouched by flood waters. 

"Never flooded or took any water before. Didn't even come close. Not even during the Memorial Day or Tax Day floods. This particular prayer space fits about 1,000 people," Strauss said.

However, during Hurricane Harvey last year, about a foot of water seeped into the building's offices and up to six feet of water flooded the temple's main congregation area-- destroying everything. 

"All of the prayer books, all the Bible commentary, the chairs, the carpet, several feet up the walls-- all of it was destroyed so it's taken us almost a year now to rebuild," Strauss said. 

In total, Rabbi Strauss estimates the synagogue sustained more than $6 million in damage. Over the last year, Rabbi Strauss said the temple has received help from more than 1,600 donors locally and across the world, including the state of Israel.

The new, improved and more handicap friendly space will make its debut just in time for Rosh Hashanah, which is the first major holiday for the Jewish new year. 

"We had feedback from everyone in our congregation and the people said they wanted the prayer space to become more handicap accessible. For example, there's a ramp now in the very front, not in the back. It's in the front where anyone in our congregation can now come up to a blessing in front of the Torah," Strauss said.

Rabbi Strauss said there are roughly 60,000 Jews in the Houston area and during Hurricane Harvey, more than 2,000 Jewish families were flooded. 

Beth Yeshurun is the largest conservative synagogue in the country and the second largest in North America behind Toronto.