Martha Bergadine grew up in Michigan and converted to Judaism as an adult after meeting her husband, Stan Zamek. They decided to change careers simultaneously and entered the Hebrew Union College Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati. They were both ordained as Rabbis in 1996. They moved to Baton Rouge in 2000, where Stan became the Rabbi at Beth Shalom, and Martha later joined the Jewish Federation of Baton Rouge as a part-time administrator. She also served as the Director of Religious School at Beth Shalom Synagogue and taught in the Melton Program in New Orleans. After Hurricane Katrina hit in August/September 2005, Baton Rouge experienced a huge influx of evacuees, and Martha helped mobilize the Federation to provide people with basic needs and social services. She also helped organize people to do search and rescue missions for people and Torahs left behind in New Orleans. A few weeks after Hurricane Katrina, Beth Shalom received significant water damage from Hurricane Rita. Martha and her husband helped organize dozens of volunteers to help clean up the extensive water damage in the sanctuary and social hall. They also worked with architects to help redesign and rebuild the damaged portions of the building.
Martha describes her childhood in Michigan, her conversion to Judaism when she met her husband Stan Zamek and attended rabbinical school. She traces their career paths, which brought Martha and Stan to Baton Rouge, where he became Rabbi at Beth Shalom, and she worked part-time as a rabbi with the North Shore Jewish Congregation. After their children were born, Martha began to work with the Jewish Federation in Baton Rouge. Bergadine describes the Jewish community in Baton Rouge, how it’s changed, and how Hurricane Katrina impacted the area. Martha talks a lot about Hurricane Katrina, how the community prepared, the storm itself, and supporting the massive influx of Hurricane Katrina evacuees that poured into Baton Rouge during the storm's aftermath. Martha and the Jewish Federation of Baton Rouge helped place evacuees with households in the area, provided social services, and organized search and rescue missions for both people and Torahs left behind in New Orleans. Although the devastation and loss from both storms were tremendous, Martha explains she was able to see that these disasters help show the good side of people and enable the Jewish communities of Baton Rouge and New Orleans to feel more connected to each other.
How to cite this page
Oral History of Martha Bergadine. Interviewed by Rosalind Hinton. 3 November 2006. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on November 28, 2023) <https://jwa.org/oralhistories/bergadine-martha>.
Oral History of Martha Bergadine 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.