JWA News Release: August 9, 2006
Project of Jewish Women's Archive:
Katrina's Jewish Voices Goes Live
Collecting the Jewish Experience of Katrina Online
BROOKLINE, MA — August 9, 2006 — When Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast almost a year ago, Jewish communities were among those dramatically impacted by the storm. Many in the region lost their homes, livelihoods and places of worship, while those geographically removed contributed to relief efforts by providing housing, funding, and hands-on rebuilding.
In an effort to preserve the Jewish experience of Hurricane Katrina, the Jewish Women's Archive (JWA) has launched Katrina's Jewish Voices at katrina.jwa.org. Members of the Jewish community in New Orleans and across the country may now contribute their stories and photographs to an interactive website and browse the existing collection.
Documents such as emails describing people's experiences of evacuation, resettlement, and rebuilding efforts; photos of their homes and businesses; High Holiday and Shabbat sermons; and blogs and web pages are all important parts of the historical record.
"We're thrilled the website is now live," notes Jayne K. Guberman, project director and director of Oral History at JWA. "As the first anniversary of Katrina approaches, we know memories of the hurricane will be foremost in people's minds."
If there is one message JWA wants to communicate, it is DON'T DELETE ITEMS—CONTRIBUTE THEM! "We encourage everyone to search their computers for materials they think may be of interest," adds Guberman. "We can accept any digital file or people can type in their story directly." Contributors can categorize, or tag, their items with search terms ranging from "dreidel" to "displacement" and "acts of heroism" to "Katrina fatigue."
JWA's 10 year experience with collecting Jewish women's history online and creating collaborative partnerships makes it uniquely qualified for this project. JWA also established a relationship with New Orleans' Jewish community in 2005, when it honored five of its Jewish women leaders as "Women Who Dared".
JWA Executive Director Gail Twersky Reimer explains, "The Jewish community's response to this catastrophic event has been one of extraordinary proportions. Using innovative digital imagery and computer technologies developed in collaboration with The Center for History and New Media at George Mason University, Katrina's Jewish Voices will ensure this history is part of the unfolding story of America and American Jewry."
Funding for Katrina's Jewish Voices has been provided by the 350 Fund: The American Jewish Historical Society, Celebrate 350: Jewish Life in America, and the Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives in celebration of 350 years of Jewish life in America; Jan Aronson; The Asher Calechman Family; the Jewish Federation of Greater Baton Rouge; and The Wise Women.
JWA has also partnered with the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life in Jackson, Mississippi on the oral history component that complements the website. Dr. Rosalind Hinton, project oral historian, will conduct 100 digital video interviews with members of the local Jewish communities. The public is invited to suggest names of family, friends and colleagues by using the nomination form at katrina.jwa.org.