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Sharing the stories of Katrina's Jewish Voices

This weekend we lead up to the 5th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which struck New Orleans on the morning of August 29th, 2005 killing more than 1,700 people and displacing hundreds of thousands. The media is marking this occasion: The Today Show is live from New Orleans this morning; the Hurricane is a “Times Topic” on nytimes.com; PBS is airing “Storm that Drowned a City.” There is a lot to digest and discuss this year as we consider the storm, the response, and the efforts to rebuild still underway.

Five years ago, watching these events unfold, JWA decided that we had something to offer. JWA had the resources and expertise to capture the story of the Jewish communities of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. We conducted oral history interviews and created an online collection of documents and images from people across the country that were affected by the storm. This project is called “Katrina’s Jewish Voices.”

Today, five years later, there is still much work to be done to revive New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. Likewise, JWA’s "Katrina’s Jewish Voices" project is unfinished. The online collection is available to explore at katrina.jwa.org, and in honor of the 5th anniversary of the storm, we have put some of the most compelling images from the collection on Flickr, a popular photo-sharing website with a far-reaching audience. The images are in the slideshow below, but you can learn more about the stories behind the images by visiting the photo set on Flickr. We are still collecting, so if you have images or documents you would like to add, you can upload them to katrina.jwa.org.

The oral history interviews of "Katrina’s Jewish Voices" are less accessible than the images. They are digitized, but JWA needs funding to put them on the Web and make them searchable in a meaningful way. Last year we updated several interviews and shared clips from some others, but this barely touches even the tip of the iceberg.

One such story is that of Hayley Fields, a teenager from LA who heard that the Beth Israel Congregation had lost all of its Torah scrolls in the flood. Hayley organized a non-profit called “Every Minute Counts” that sold watches to raise money to buy the Beth Israel Congregation a new Torah scroll. Four years ago today, Hayley and her family traveled to New Orleans to present the scroll. It was accepted by Jackie Gothard, the first female president of the 104-year old Orthodox congregation, just in time for the High Holidays.

Read more about Hayley Fields and Jackie Gothard in This Week in History.

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Menorah, Congregation Beth Israel, New Orleans, April 11, 2006
Full image
Menorah with one arm broken off, in Congregation Beth Israel in New Orleans, pictured during a Spring Break service trip to Louisiana for Jewish teenages from Westchester, New York, April 11, 2006.
Courtesy of Rick Weil. Katrina's Jewish Voices, Object #2448 (June 03 2013, 10:20 am).
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How to cite this page

Berkenwald, Leah. "Sharing the stories of Katrina's Jewish Voices." 27 August 2010. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on March 24, 2019) <https://jwa.org/blog/Sharing-the-stories-of-Katrinas-Jewish-Voices>.


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