When Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans and the Gulf Coast on the morning of August 29, 2005, it left in its wake not only broken levees and scattered populations, but the devastation of a unique Jewish community that had been nearly 250 years in the making. Despite the storm's profound impact on the local communities and the dramatic response of the Jewish community nationwide, the Jewish story of Katrina remained largely untold. The Jewish Women's Archive (JWA) organized Katrina's Jewish Voices, a two-part project using online collecting and oral history, to fill the void and ensure that the Jewish experience of this catastrophic event would become a part of the history of America and of American Jewry.

In honor of the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, we have mined this larger collection to highlight compelling stories and significant themes from members of the Jewish community in New Orleans.

Oral History Project

JWA, in partnership with the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life (ISJL), conducted 83 in-depth video interviews with members of the Jewish communities of New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and the Gulf Coast. This oral history component of Katrina's Jewish Voices enabled a wide cross-section of these communities to serve as "historic witnesses" to a watershed event in its (and our) communal history.

The interviews are permanently housed on the Internet Archive. Dr. Rosalind Hinton, a visiting scholar at Tulane University's Newcomb College Center for Research on Women and a professor at DePaul University in Chicago, and Dr. Stuart Rockoff, executive director of the Mississippi Humanities Council, conducted the interviews.

The project selected narrators—both women and men—from different sectors of the New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Gulf Coast Jewish communities to share their stories. To achieve a diverse and representative group, project staff considered criteria such as gender, age, affiliations, occupation, role within the community, people's experiences during and after the hurricane, as well as their decisions about whether or not to return.

Online Collecting Project

In 2006, JWA created Katrina’s Jewish Voices as an online collection project to collect, preserve, and present the American Jewish community's experiences of Hurricane Katrina and their recollections of the Jewish communities of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.

Developed in collaboration with the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University, the online collection welcomed members of the Jewish community—women and men alike—to tell their own stories of how the storm affected them, and to share their memories of the New Orleans and Gulf Coast Jewish communities. The project collected digital artifacts in a variety of forms, including photos, blog postings, podcasts, emails, essays, sermons, and other first-hand accounts, from American Jews nationwide.

These collections will serve as a vital resource for future historians of the American Jewish experience, as well as for those interested in exploring how individuals and different faith communities responded to this vast humanitarian crisis.

Katrina's Jewish Voices Project Staff

JWA is grateful to the staff that helped bring Katrina's Jewish Voices to fruition in 2006:

Jayne K. Guberman, Project Director and Director of Oral History
Ari Davidow, Director of Online Strategy
Ruth Pearlstein, Program Manager
Ellen Kanner, Director of Development
Gail T. Reimer, Executive Director
Jaymie Saks, Chief Operating Officer

The 2015 online exhibit of interview excerpts was created by:

Paula Sinclair, Director of Programs and Partnerships
Lisa Feld, Web Content Editor
Patrick Dash, Web Developer
Judith Rosenbaum, Executive Director

Collaborating Institutions

The Jewish Women's Archive would like to thank the following collaborating institutions for participating in Katrina's Jewish Voices and for encouraging their communities to add their voices to the online collection:


Katrina's Jewish Voices was funded by generous individuals and foundations. JWA would like to thank the following major donors:

  • 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
  • Asher Calechman Family
  • Jewish Endowment Foundation, New Orleans
  • Jewish Federation of Greater Baton Rouge
  • Southern Jewish Historical Society
  • The Wise Women

JWA welcomes your contributions of financial support. If you have any questions about making a contribution, please contact us.


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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Credits." (Viewed on April 17, 2024) <>.