Stephen Richer was born in Newark, New Jersey, in 1946 to a large Jewish family. He attended Hebrew, Sunday, and high school in Dover, New Jersey. Stephen came to New Orleans in 1996 when he was hired as the executive director of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau. Stephen joined Congregation Beth Israel in Biloxi, where he served as president at the time of the interview.
Stephen details his family background, Jewish education, and moving to Biloxi from Atlantic City in 1996 to serve as the executive director of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau. He talks about being Jewish in the South, finding a community in Congregation Beth Israel, and serving as its president during Hurricane Katrina. He talks about the storm, evacuation, response, and recovery. Stephen evacuated just in time. He and his dogs drove seventeen hours to his sister's house in Florida, and he watched the television reports of devastating flooding in his neighborhood. Post-Katrina, Stephen played an active role in communications and coordination of recovery efforts and making sure friends, family, and Beth Israel congregants were safe and sound. He found a great deal of comfort in the ecumenical spirit along the Gulf Coast and how the Jewish community, in particular, came together after the storm. Stephen finally returned to a severely damaged home, and many of his belongings were destroyed. He reflects on how this experience has changed his perspective and priorities; spirituality is more important than materiality.
How to cite this page
Oral History of Stephen Richer. Interviewed by Rosalind Hinton. 27 November 2006. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on December 11, 2023) <https://jwa.org/oralhistories/richer-stephen>.
Oral History of Stephen Richer 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.