Katrina's Jewish Voices
As I’m sure you all know, today is the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. It’s hard to believe it’s already been a year. Part of why Katrina still seems so fresh in my mind is because I’ve been working on a project about Katrina for almost this whole year. The Jewish Women’s Archive has created a website called Katrina’s Jewish Voices where people from New Orleans, the Gulf Coast, and all over the country, can contribute stories and digital objects related to Katrina and its aftermath. The goal of the project is to collect the story of the Jewish experience of Hurricane Katrina and of the relief efforts.
So for the past year, I’ve been reading stories and looking at photos and documents of the heartbreaking destruction of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. Needless to say, it’s been hard to deal with this material every day. There is one photo in particular that I just can’t seem to get out of my mind. The photo was taken inside the home of a Jewish family in New Orleans, in May 2006, and it doesn’t look like much, if anything, had been done yet to clean up or repair the home. The photo shows the bedroom of a teenage girl, her bed (typically) piled with clothes and books, including a yearbook. Right in the middle of the pile is an Ugg boot, a contemporary symbol of teenage girlhood, and a copy of The Diary of Anne Frank, the story of another teenage Jewish girl in a very different time. The juxtaposition of the boot and the water-logged book makes me stop, every time I see it, and think about what this New Orleans teenage girl must have gone through and what she is still going through. Is she keeping a diary like Anne Frank did? Will we one day be able to know about her experiences during and after Katrina?
Over the past year, we’ve heard a lot of news reports about Katrina with the same voices telling similar stories. Of course, these stories are important and we need to keep hearing them. But working on Katrina’s Jewish Voices helped me realize that there are so many other stories out there that we aren’t hearing, including the story of this Jewish teenage girl.
Have you been thinking about Katrina this week? Check out Katrina’s Jewish Voices and share your stories of Katrina and its aftermath.