Over 100 Houston Jewish businesses donate to COVID-19 fund in May

Over 100 Houston Jewish businesses have donated toward COVID-19 relief funding for Houston's Jewish community. (Courtesy Eighteen36 and Mensch Out)
Over 100 Houston Jewish businesses have donated toward COVID-19 relief funding for Houston's Jewish community. (Courtesy Eighteen36 and Mensch Out)

Over 100 Houston Jewish businesses have donated toward COVID-19 relief funding for Houston's Jewish community. (Courtesy Eighteen36 and Mensch Out)

The idea that turned into the Mensch Out program began with a simple concept: aiding Jewish businesses in the Greater Houston area who may be struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic.

First, Martha Barvin formulated a list of Jewish-owned restaurants that she sent to friends and family.

Then, the idea evolved when Like Minds Communications founder Jenny Gustafson got a hold of the list, according to the program’s website, from just supporting businesses to supporting Jews facing financial impact from COVID-19.

Gustafson and her partner, Melina Soroka, pooled resources from Like Minds Communications with two other marketing agencies, Integrate Agency and Tippit & Moo, and Mensch Out was born.

“'Why don’t we put a community partnership spin on this?'” Soroka recalled asking in those initial conversations. “'How can we leverage this to help the broader community?'”

Throughout the month of May, over 100 Jewish businesses in Greater Houston pledged to donate between 5-15% of their total sales every Monday to the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston and the Houston Jewish Community Foundation's COVID-19 Emergency Appeal.

The Emergency Appeal was formed through a partnership between the two Jewish organizations, which focuses on providing urgent basic needs to individuals and families, support community organizations, and help ensure the continuity and viability of Jewish life in Houston, according to the Jewish Federation website.

One of those businesses listed is bar Eighteen36, which shares a building with restaurant Roadster Grill at 2221 W. Alabama St., Houston, and which has been donating 15% of its sales.

“When you help your community, your community helps you,” Eighteen36 owner Jason Scheinthal “You have a responsibility to give money out to the community that supports you.”

The idea Scheinthal touched on is the Jewish idea of "tzedakah," a Hebrew word meaning “charitable giving,” Soroka said.

A large reason for the program’s importance, Scheinthal said, is because people who are tight on cash during the pandemic have not been able to give out their monthly contributions to the organizations.

“One of the things lost in this is that charities are suffering—the charities that support individuals in need,” Scheinthal said. “We talk a lot about how this affects our world—[businesses]—but donations are down, and it’s something we need to talk about more and emphasize more.”

Like Eighteen36, which has seen a dip in sales because of the pandemic, event planning and styling company Gem Events has faced similar hardships, owner Meg Grossman said.

“Being a business owner has been challenging,” Grossman said. “However, it’s given me an opportunity to evolve my business.”

A couple of examples include that Gem Events adapted to support Zoom parties and to provide large balloon garland installations.

The exposure Gem Events gained from donating to the Mensch Out program has also helped.

“I just love that the agencies are working together during this time and just supporting local Jewish Houstonians,” Grossman said. “Industries, including mine, have been impacted, and bringing any awareness during this time is a godsend.”

It is unclear if the program will continue into future months, though it is being considered, Soroka said, and will be revisited with participating businesses.
By Hunter Marrow
Hunter Marrow came to Community Impact Newspaper in January 2020. Before that, Hunter covered local news in Ontario, OR for three years, covering municipal issues, crime, and education across Malheur County and across the border into Idaho.


Novel at River Oaks
Inner Loop apartment rents tumbled by as much as 16% in 2020

"I would hope that these operators in those areas—at some point, you can’t lower rents anymore. They just have to wait for people to show up," ApartmentData's Bruce McClenny said.

The first-ever Houston Reads Day will take place March 2. (Courtesy Pexels)
Volunteers needed for inaugural literacy-focused Houston Reads Day

Volunteers will read to 10,000 kindergarten through third-grade students.

One local health system leader said he expects everyone, including those under age 65, will have access to the vaccine within the next 90 days. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Houston-area health system leaders talk progress, hurdles during COVID-19

Officials from CHI St. Luke’s Health and UTMB Health said community members must remain vigilant as case counts climb but that they expect the current surge to peak by early February.

During a North Houston Association meeting Jan. 20, Jazz Hamilton—first vice president with the Retail Brokerage Services Group for CBRE—discussed how the future of retail will likely be shaped by the conveniences to which consumers have become accustomed amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Ronald Winters/Community Impact Newspaper)
Pandemic-induced retail conveniences are here to stay, official says

According to Jazz Hamilton, first vice president with the Retail Brokerage Services group for CBRE, between January and November of 2020, consumers spent almost $550 billion online—a 33% increase from 2019.

The estimated number of active COVID-19 cases in Harris County has surpassed 50,000, reaching 51,362 as of the most recent data Jan. 20, according to the Harris County Public Health Department. (Community Impact staff)
Harris County coronavirus count: Active cases top 50,000

See the latest trends on COVID-19 in Harris County.

A winning bidder has been selected to buy out francesca’s clothing boutique store. (Hunter Marrow/Community Impact Newspaper)
Winning bidder selected for francesca’s sale

Francesca’s was purchased for $18 million by TerraMar.

In addition to vaccine hubs, there are also smaller community vaccine providers throughout Texas, such as pharmacies, that may also have the vaccine available. (Eva Vigh/Community Impact Newspaper)
EXPLAINED: When, where and how Texans can receive the COVID-19 vaccine

As Texas is still in the early stages of rolling out the COVID-19 vaccine, many Texans are still unsure about where, when and how they can get inoculated.

The barbecue eatery is the second Killen's Restaurant Group venture to launch in The Woodlands area. (Courtesy Killen's Barbecue)
Killen's Barbecue opens in The Woodlands and more Houston-area news

Read the latest business and community news from the Houston area.

Mayor Turner and the honor guard.
Houston joins nationwide coronavirus memorial, lights landmarks

The memorial was planned as a component of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris' inauguration.

Feeding Texas hosted a Jan. 19 webinar to discuss legislative highlights for the 87th Texas Legislature. (Screenshot courtesy Feeding Texas)
Food insecurity in Texas' 87th Legislature: Hunger relief organization Feeding Texas to propose legislation addressing hunger

Hunger relief organization Feeding Texas hosted a webinar Jan. 19 to discuss increasing funding and accessibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in the 87th legislative session.

COVID-19 vaccines
DATA: Texas has vaccinated about 9% of estimated Phase 1 recipients

Over 1.1 million individuals from the Phase 1 population, which is estimated to include 13.5 million individuals total, have received at least one dose.