JWA News Release: June 15, 2006 - KJV Background


Boston, MA, June 15, 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 and the first chartered Jewish congregation in 1828, the Jewish population of New Orleans had grown into a thriving community of some 10,000 which had long served as the hub of regional Jewish life.


The destruction wrought by Hurricane Katrina sent the Jewish communities of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast into flight, along with a million other refugees from the storm. 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." To date, over sixty percent have returned to their beloved "Big Easy" to engage in the monumental efforts to rebuild their community. Others are planning to return at a later date or have chosen to settle permanently in other places.

The Jewish community nationwide responded to the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina swiftly and generously by raising millions of dollars and participating in relief efforts to help not only their fellow Jews but many other New Orleanians.

Despite the devastation to this unique Jewish community and the dramatic response of the larger Jewish community, the Jewish story of Katrina remains largely untold. Katrina's Jewish Voices is designed to fill the void and ensure that the Jewish experience of this catastrophic event will become a part of the historical record.


Conceived as two complementary and interrelated parts, Katrina's Jewish Voices will include the online collection of digital artifacts from a broad range of American Jews, including members of the NOLA and Gulf Coast Jewish communities, regional Jewish communities who helped care for the evacuees, and individuals from across the country who contributed to relief efforts. The online collection project is directed by the Jewish Women's Archive. Working with the Center for History and New Media, JWA is developing an interactive Katrina's Jewish Voices website where the public will be able to contribute to and browse the collections.

The Jewish Women's Archive is also partnering with the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life (ISJL) on a second component of the project—to conduct 75–100 in-depth oral history interviews with women and men from the Jewish communities directly impacted by the storm.

The Katrina's Jewish Voices collections will serve as a vital resource for historians of the American Jewish experience, as well as for scholars, researchers, and others interested in exploring the ways that individuals and communities responded to this vast humanitarian crisis. It will also provide an unprecedented opportunity for members of the American Jewish community to participate in a virtual community of communal interest and concern.


  • An Online Collection of Digital Artifacts of the Jewish community's experience of Katrina will give Jews from New Orleans, the Gulf Coast and elsewhere around the country an opportunity to document how they experienced and responded to this crisis. JWA is working with The Center for History and New Media (CHNM) to create an interactive website for Katrina's Jewish Voices where people will be able to contribute to a digital archive. JWA has already received a number of e-mails and digital images. JWA is also working with Jewish organizations to solicit all kinds of digital artifacts such as emails, photos, essays, sermons, web pages, blogs, news clippings, and audio and video recordings. These collaborating institutions will play a key role in getting the word out about Katrina's Jewish Voices and letting people know when and how they can contribute to the collection.
  • A second, oral history component of the project will enable a wide cross section of New Orleans' Jewish community to serve as "historic witnesses" to a watershed event in its (and our) communal history. For this component, JWA is partnering with the Institute of Southern Jewish Life to conduct 75–100 in-depth oral history interviews with members of the Jewish communities of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. These interviews will be permanently housed at ISJL and be made available on the JWA website at jwa.org.


We believe that the online collection and oral history projects will:

  • Keep the story of Katrina's impact on the New Orleans Jewish community alive while the rebuilding process unfolds.
  • Ensure that the experiences and reflections of those who were directly affected become part of the narrative of the American Jewish experience.
  • Make the Jewish response to Katrina part of the larger American understanding of this catastrophic event.

To further ensure that this historic record is preserved, the oral histories will also become part of a collection of Katrina-related oral histories accessible through the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress, and will be deposited in selected other institutional repositories.


Many of the materials we want to preserve can only be found on the personal computers of individuals scattered across the country. You can help us preserve these important digital artifacts by looking in your own computer and by urging others in your organization, your congregation, your neighborhood to do the same.


For Underwriting opportunities, please contact us

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "JWA News Release: June 15, 2006 - KJV Background." (Viewed on May 19, 2019) <https://jwa.org/news/2006/060615-kjvbackground>.


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