Lonnie Zarum (Schaffer)

b. April 30, 1967

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Lonnie Zarum stepped up to lead her struggling Modern Orthodox synagogue, Anshe Sfard, to rebuild even better than before. Born in London, Zarum earned a BA from Middlesex University in 1989 and studied at the London School of Contemporary Dance for a year. She moved to New Orleans in 2002. After Hurricane Katrina, the leadership of her Orthodox synagogue, Anshe Sfard, tried to govern from afar with disastrous results. Zarum, who had meanwhile continued running Hebrew school classes from her home and then from the JCC, took on the synagogue presidency. She viewed the storm as an opportunity to forge stronger ties with other Jewish organizations and bring in fresh ideas from other Orthodox communities. In response, the formerly dwindling synagogue membership enjoyed a surge of new energy. In 2008, Zarum founded Strike It Green, a company that recycles and rents props, sets, and wardrobes for film, theater, and events, including the Southern Repertory, the Cripple Creek Theatre, the Jefferson Performing Arts Society, and the NOLA Project. 

Scope and Content Note

Lonnie discusses her modern Orthodox upbringing in London before moving to New Orleans with her husband in 2002. She talks about Judaism in New Orleans and raising her four children. Lonnie remembers her family's decision to stay in New Orleans for the hurricane. After a few days without power and realizing her house would get flooded, she escaped with her family to East Baton Rouge. She discusses the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and moving around with her family. Lonnie remembers returning to her home in New Orleans in January and hosting services and Hebrew school at her house because they were locked out of the synagogue building. She highlights the struggles that her synagogue, Anshe Sfard, faced after the hurricane because they did not have a rabbi. Lonnie talks about her leadership role within the synagogue and fighting for her community. Lonnie recalls not being able to secure funding for Anshe Sfard and ongoing legal battles. Lonnie discusses how her relationship with Judaism, New Orleans, and the Jewish community changed after Katrina. She concludes by talking about how she's grown since the hurricane and some things she is grateful for.

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How to cite this page

Oral History of Lonnie Zarum (Schaffer). Interviewed by Rosalind Hinton. 30 August 2007. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on April 12, 2024) <http://jwa.org/oralhistories/schaffer-lonnie>.

Oral History of Lonnie Zarum (Schaffer) 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.