Update: Biloxi shul “very damaged”

Beth Israel Congregation, which was situated two blocks off the beach in Biloxi, was reportedly “very damaged” by Hurricane Katrina.

The only Conservative congregation in Mississippi and the only synagogue on the Mississippi coast, Beth Israel is located behind the President Casino and Treasure Bay Casino, both of which were heavily damaged in the storm.

Lori Beth Susman, a past president of the congregation who rode out the storm in Destin, Fla., said she received reports that the cinderblock building’s roof was gone.

According to Steve Richer, president of the congregation, the building is “very damaged, including the living space for our live-in custodian… at least it’s still there while many other nearby buildings are not.” An apartment complex behind the building, where one of the congregants lived, apparently was destroyed.

Some congregants’ homes are still intact, while others had heavy damage. As is typical with hurricanes, the devastation is random, with one house being leveled and the next one intact, so without actually being able to go there, it is hard to say what is still standing. It will take some time to assess how the congregants fared, because there is almost no communication in and out of the area.

The congregation faces the task of rebuilding; but many congregants are now unemployed as well as homeless. Susman also said that because school will likely not start again for a long time, families with children are looking to reside elsewhere, either short-term or long-term.