JWA News Release: June 12, 2006
New Jewish Women’s Archive (JWA) Project Will Preserve Katrina’s Jewish Voices
BROOKLINE, MA — June 12, 2006 — When Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans and the Gulf Coast on the morning of August 29, 2005, it brought in its wake not only broken levees and scattered populations, but the devastation of a Jewish community that had been nearly 250 years in the making. From the first Jewish settler in 1757, the Jewish population of New Orleans had grown to a thriving community of 10,000 that had long served as the hub of regional Jewish life.
The destruction wrought by Katrina sent these Jewish communities into flight, along with so many others. Taken in by friends, family, and strangers in communities across the South and, in some cases, across the nation, Katrina evacuees formed a new “American Jewish Diaspora.”
In the aftermath of the storm, the staff of the Jewish Women’s Archive (JWA)—like so many others—searched for a way to help. They have now launched Katrina’s Jewish Voices, a two-part project that encourages members of the Jewish communities of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast—as well as Jews across the country—to tell their personal stories of how the storm affected them.
The first part of the project is an interactive website built with The Center for History and New Media, which will launch this July. Anyone directly affected by the storm or who participated in relief efforts is invited to contribute to this online collection by submitting e-mails, photos, essays, sermons, news clippings, audio and video recordings, and other digital artifacts that reflect their experiences.
For the second part of the project, JWA is partnering with the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life to conduct 75 to 100 in-depth oral histories with the Jews of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast who experienced firsthand the devastating effects of the storm.
WA conceived this project, in part, after being guided by firsthand impressions from a JWA Board member, Carol Wise, a New Orleans resident who fled to Houston with her family before the storm struck. A longtime member of the Jewish community and resident of the University District just "up river" from the Garden district, Wise shared the ‘voices’ of her friends and family, through e-mails she had saved, and by recounting the stories she already knew by heart. She urged JWA to find some way to do what it does best: preserve Katrina’s Jewish voices. JWA got right to work on the project. Stay tuned for more details on Katrina’s Jewish Voices. In the mean time, please hold on to any relevant artifacts you might want to contribute, tell others about the project, and contact JWA if you have any questions.