Rabbi Andy Busch was born in 1965 in New Brunswick, New Jersey, and grew up in Highland Park. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Brandeis University and attended Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He was ordained as a rabbi at Hebrew Union College. In 2005, Rabbi Busch and his family moved to New Orleans to become the rabbi of Touro Synagogue. At the time of the interview, he had accepted a new position and was preparing to leave New Orleans. Rabbi Busch is married to Rabbi Debbie Pine, who serves as Executive Director of New Orleans Hillel. They have three children, Johanna, Ben, and Ethan.
Rabbi Bush talks about his childhood growing up in New Brunswick, New Jersey, the Jewish community there, and attending rabbinical school. After rabbinical school, Andy moved to Pennsylvania, where he lived before he and his wife, also a rabbi, moved to New Orleans two months before Hurricane Katrina to serve as the rabbi of Touro Synagogue. Andy talks about the weekend before the storm; he had Friday night services and a bat mitzvah on Saturday. That afternoon, Rabbi Busch and his family evacuated to Jacobs Camp, a Reform Jewish summer camp in Utica, Mississippi, where they monitored the reports and news coverage of the storm and realized they would not be immediately returning to New Orleans. His family continued to Illinois, where his wife's parents lived. During this time and since, Rabbi Busch has reflected the professional isolation he felt and his role as a new rabbi in a city where he had no previous connections, friends, or relatives. Andy and his family relocated to Houston to reconnect with Touro Synagogue colleagues; this was also where many of its members fled and settled in after the storm. So, while in exile from New Orleans, Andy would go into communities to speak and then ask if the congregation members would come forward and introduce himself because he had not met most of the congregation by the time of the storm. The Touro synagogue was able to rebuild its services and community in Houston. Rabbi Busch reflects on the long-standing inequality and racial discrimination in New Orleans exposed by Hurricane Katrina, its impact, and its aftermath. When Andy returned to New Orleans and Touro Synagogue, it was clear his congregation and community came to love, appreciate, and rely on him in the two years he stayed after the storm. Finally, Rabbi Busch highlights the Jewish Reform Movement and their efforts in stabilizing the New Orleans community after the storm.