It’s been seven years since Hurricane Katrina’s made landfall over Louisiana, causing destruction, devastation, and death throughout the Gulf Coast region. This week, JTA tells a story of hope and rebuilding in the post-storm years. It’s the story of Modern Orthodox Congregation Beth Israel and our own Congregations Gates of Prayer in Metairie, LA, the former hard hit by the force of the hurricane.
Ultimately left without a home to call their own, Beth Israel has leased synagogue space from Gates of Prayer for the past seven years and recently purchased land next door to the Reform congregation upon which to rebuild. Says Gates of Prayer’s Rabbi Robert Lowey, “It was important to us when the storm hit that Congregation Beth Israel not go out of existence because it’s important for a community like us to have all the major expressions of Jewish life in order to be a Jewish community.” Beth Israel’s new space will include a playground to be shared with their friends at Gates of Prayer, a reminder that differing beliefs cannot divide a united Jewish community.
The story begins,
Seven years ago an iconic picture for many Jews of the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina was of men waist deep in a flooded synagogue carrying Torahs to safety.
On Sunday, in a celebration of physical and spiritual unity, the Torahs of that congregation were carried into their new home next to the Reform congregation that offered space to the Modern Orthodox synagogue and now shares with it a new playground.
“Our congregation is a remarkable story in the way the Jewish community leaned on itself and supported one another,” says Rabbi Uri Topolosky of the Modern Orthodox Congregation Beth Israel. “This is a story that I think resonates with so many of us in town and it symbolizes great things for all of us who have been rebuilding since Katrina.”
Seven years after the hurricane hit the region on Aug. 29, 2005, and the subsequent failure of levees devastated much of Greater New Orleans, Beth Israel opened in a new home in Metairie, a suburb five miles from its former home in New Orleans. The Aug. 26 dedication ceremonies symbolized the rejuvenation of the area’s Jewish community.
Photo from JTA courtesy of ZAKA