New Orleans Jews begin rebuilding their community – virtually

By David Horovitz September 6, 2005

Federation official says many Jews will choose to restart their lives elsewhere

About 15 members of what was the 9,000-strong New Orleans Jewish community are estimated to still be in the Hurricane Katrina-blighted city, and arrangements were being finalized Monday to ‘pluck them out,’ said Adam Bronstone, the director of community relations at the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans.

Speaking to The Jerusalem Post by telephone from Houston, Texas, to where some 5,000 of the New Orleans Jews are estimated to have relocated, Bronstone said the federation had reestablished contact with ‘a lot’ of the community, and he was fairly confident that all community members were safe, even if they hadn’t made contact, because they’d had sufficient time and the capability to leave ahead of the devastation.

But he said he believed many of the Jews would now choose to rebuild their lives elsewhere and not return to New Orleans.

The city would likely prove ‘unlivable for at least a year, at best,’ he predicted, and in that time families would have found new homes and new schools and begun their lives over again.

He said much of the city’s infrastructure had plainly been destroyed and would require immense effort to rebuild. ‘Along with about 40 percent of the community, I live in Metairie,’ he said, ‘and I know for instance that there are no traffic lights there. The water covered an entire floor throughout that area. Rebuilding the power grids and the rest of the infrastructure is going to take a long, long time. You know how long it takes just to get a road fixed.’

Having lived in New Orleans for the past four years, and having briefly evacuated the city twice previously amid tropical storms, Bronstone said he himself would ultimately ‘probably end up moving on.

‘I hate saying that because I love my work. This was my home. I love New Orleans,’ he said. ‘But this is the third time I’ve evacuated. Do I need to take another chance?’

Bronstone said the community had been practically and emotionally boosted by an outpouring of assistance and goodwill from America’s Jewish community, the rest of the Diaspora and Israel.

The Houston community had opened its doors to New Orleans Jews. ‘For my first few days here, I stayed with my Houston counterpart,’ he noted.

He cited some heartwarming rescue and family reunification cases, including one in which the second son of a community member, born just before the hurricane struck and being kept in neonatal intensive care, was flown to a hospital in Fort Worth without his parents, who were then rapidly flown out to be with him.

A non-Jewish member of the New Orleans JCC maintenance staff, meanwhile, ‘was plucked off the roof of a home three days ago’ and brought first to a friend’s home in Houston and then to the Astrodome. ‘Then a member of the Houston Federation brought him to the JCC and arranged for Angel Flight, which privately flies people in times of crisis, to fly him to his family in Albuquerque.’

Bronstone said the New Orleans Federation was now ‘in the process of rebuilding our community virtually – as an Internet data base – because they have scattered almost to the four corners of America. They’re in Baton Rouge, Memphis, Dallas, Atlanta and, especially, Houston.’

Community members who had not yet reestablished email contact, he said, should email him at

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