Arlene Barron was born in New Jersey in 1945. Her father was a jeweler, and her mother was a housewife. Arlene's family moved to Western Pennsylvania when she was ten years old. Her family belonged to a Reform congregation in their community. Barron attended Temple University and graduated with a bachelor's degree in science. In 1976, Arlene moved to New Orleans when her husband took a teaching position at Tulane Law School and later became interim provost. Barron became involved as a member and on the board of the Jewish Community Center before serving as its executive director for twenty years.
Arlene Barron discusses her childhood, first in New Jersey and then Pennsylvania and the Reform synagogue she and her family attended. She talks about transitioning from living in Philadelphia with her family to the "Deep South" and getting involved with the Jewish Community Center as a member and later as a staff person, eventually serving as its executive director. The interview focuses on Barron's experience of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and JCC's involvement in the recovery. She describes preparing her house and the JCC for the storm, evacuating ahead of Katrina to Houston with her family, and the recovery efforts in the following months. Two weeks later, the threat of Hurricane Rita necessitated a second evacuation. Barron and her family traveled to Austin, Texas, to stay with a relative. She describes this trip as terrible and stressful due to the gridlock of evacuees from Houston to Austin. When Arlene returned to New Orleans, the JCC became central to the city's recovery. The fitness center was the first JCC service that opened back up. The JCC rolled prices back and allowed members to come in and shower since many people in New Orleans had no working showers. It was also important to get the nursery school up and running. Arlene said that by January, the JCC appeared normal and was busy. She describes the various programming at the JCC and the shift in membership to include individuals of all religions and backgrounds. Finally, Arlene reflects on the emotional and psychological impact of the storm, reevaluating her and the JCC's priorities and how she and her family are changed because of this experience.
How to cite this page
Oral History of Arlene Barron. Interviewed by Rosalind Hinton. 14 December 2006. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on November 28, 2023) <https://jwa.org/oralhistories/arlene>.
Oral History of Arlene Barron by the Jewish Women's Archive is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at https://jwa.org/contact/OralHistory.