Julie Wise Oreck

A fifth-generation New Orleans native, Julie Wise Oreck can trace her family’s history in Louisiana back to the 1800s. In her thirties, she joined the United Jewish Communities’ Young Leadership Cabinet, a feeder organization for leadership of national Jewish institutions, eventually rising to leadership positions in UJC and United Israel Appeal. She was also active on the boards of local organizations including Touro Synagogue, the New Orleans Jewish Day School, the Isidore Newman School, and the Jewish Children’s Regional Service. After Katrina, Oreck returned to New Orleans, where she helped with recovery efforts, rebuilding vital institutions.

Scope and Content Note

Oreck shared her family history and her experience growing up Jewish in New Orleans. She grew up within the assimilated Reform community, but her interest in Jewish life and ritual increased as she guided her children's Jewish education. Oreck volunteered with various Jewish non-profits, including United Jewish Appeal [now United Jewish Communities] and the Young Leadership Cabinet, which included trips to the former Soviet Union where she met musician Hanan Yuval. As she gained experience and knowledge, Oreck moved on to her role as the North American chair of Otzma. She ended her role in this position when hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. At the same time, she was involved in many local Jewish groups and was helping to plan the Maccabee Games through the Jewish Community Center. As Katrina approached, she continued to work but got plane tickets to Houston for her children and mother while she stayed in the area and prepared her house. As conditions worsened, she left, driving to Houston amid heavy traffic. Once there, Oreck learned about the extent of the flooding, though her house sustained next to no damage. She connected with friends in Houston and other members of the New Orleans community who were also displaced. Soon after the storm, Oreck attempted to get back to her house, sneaking in around the National Guard. Oreck became involved with the plan for recovery in the Jewish community, organizing programming and outreach; additionally, she also helped gut damaged houses. Oreck was deeply moved by the losses and traumas suffered by the Jewish community but had hope for the Reform community of New Orleans. Oreck voices her anger at the government but doesn't believe racism played a role in the recovery plan.

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How to cite this page

Oral History of Julie Wise Oreck. Interviewed by Rosalind Hinton. 2 July 2007. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on February 29, 2024) <http://jwa.org/oralhistories/oreck-julie>.

Oral History of Julie Wise Oreck 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.