Joel Osteen opens Houston megachurch to Jews whose synagogue was flooded


(JTA) — Televangelist Joel Osteen opened his megachurch in Houston to a Jewish congregation needing a place to hold High Holidays services in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

Congregation Beth Yeshurun was flooded and the building was in no condition to host services, according to reports.

Osteen and his wife, Victoria, came under fire during Harvey for not immediately opening their large and dry Lakewood Church building to shelter those displaced by the hurricane and its floods. It later opened to refugees from the storms.

A post on the church’s website ahead of Rosh Hashanah read “During Hurricane Harvey, Houston’s largest synagogue, Congregation Beth Yeshurun experienced devastating flooding. This came at an especially bad time for Beth Yeshurun as the Jewish High Holy Days, (Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur), are this week. Beth Yeshurn’s leadership reached out to us and Pastors Joel & Victoria offered to help. We are honored to announce that we will be opening our doors to the Beth Yeshurun congregation so that they may celebrate their High Holy Days at our church.”

The church seats 16,800. Beth Yeshurun is a Conservative synagogue in the Meyerland section of Houston with 2,000 member families.

In a message to his congregants posted on the synagogue’s Facebook page, Rabbi David Rosen encouraged them to attend the High Holidays services.

“Some people have said to me they’re not coming to the High Holidays this year. They’re not in the mood. They’re tired, they’re worn out. Others are concerned it may be too much trouble going to Lakewood Church,” he wrote.

“My plea to everyone who feels this way is: Come. No, it won’t be the same. But come. Come and be with your people. Come and be with your rabbis and cantor. We’re waiting to welcome you and to make you feel part of this beautiful gathering, as we have for so many years. We will still be having all of our community services — Chapel, Museum Minyan, Freedman-Levit service, babysitting and children’s programming. Come. It may take a little more effort than in the past, but it will be worth it. You need it. And we need you. Come.”

Osteen was scheduled to speak Thursday during services.

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