Florence Schornstein spent a lifetime making New Orleans a better place to live, and Hurricane Katrina only strengthened her resolve. Schornstein began her career as a civic activist during the civil rights movement, focusing on voter registration and school integration. Through Save Our Schools she worked to reduce racial tensions and keep children in public schools after the passage of Brown vs. Board of Education. She also volunteered her efforts for women’s equality and pro-choice rights. She took on leadership positions through the National Council of Jewish Women and served as Chairwoman of the board of United Way before creating Success by 6, a precursor to the Head Start program. And as director of the New Orleans Parks and Parkways department, Schornstein marshaled 13,000 volunteers to transform vacant lots into gardens, maintain the city’s green spaces, and raise funds for park projects. Her Parkway Partners’ ReLeaf New Orleans project replaced trees on public property that were lost in Hurricane Katrina. In the wake of the hurricane, she was also active in rebuilding childcare centers in New Orleans, helping families get back to normal.
Schornstein has been involved in both politics and the Jewish community in New Orleans for many years. Although Schornstein says that she and her husband were not hit by the flooding of Katrina, additional members of her family lost everything to the storm; this political activism in response is not new to Schornstein for she talks about her political career, which began in the Civil Rights Movement. Gaining experience from the Jewish nonprofit world, she was appointed the head of the Parks and Parkways commission in 1982, helping to create a more livable city. Schornstein also reflects on how her Jewish communities, such as NCJW, focused on activities to rebuild New Orleans, including bringing childcare back, planting trees and creating green space through the Parkway Partners and service on the Executive Committee of the Sewage and Water Board. Lastly, she revealed her frustration with national services for not doing more in New Orleans post-Katrina.
How to cite this page
Oral History of Florence Schornstein. Interviewed by Rosalind Hinton. 31 July 2006. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on December 5, 2023) <https://jwa.org/oralhistories/schornstein-florence-0>.
Oral History of Florence Schornstein 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.