Jewish groups mobilize for post-Isaac cleanup

With the restoration of power at Anshe Sfard, and the resumption of Shabbat services there this coming weekend, all the New Orleans Jewish institutions are back up and running after Hurricane Isaac.

The Jewish Federations of North America has opened a disaster relief fund for local recovery and rebuilding along the Gulf Coast. Donors can help by giving to the JFNA Disaster Relief Fund’s online donation form or via your mobile device by texting RELIEF to 51818. Donors can also send checks to our national mailbox at The Jewish Federations of North America, Wall Street Station, PO Box 148, New York, NY 10268. Please indicate “JFNA Disaster Relief Fund” on all checks or in the designation box online.

While the local Jewish institutions had minor damage, many in the community had extensive damage at their homes or businesses. For Kosher Cajun and Casablanca, the power was out for several days, and Casablanca had a lot of water damage from roof leaks in the space that they lease.

JFNA is working with the New Orleans Federation to assess the areas that were hardest hit and determine where relief funds can make the greatest difference in the Jewish and general communities.

“The Jewish community of New Orleans has been tested again,” said Michael Weil, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans. “Through resilience, creativity and the support of Jews around the world, the Jewish community of the Crescent City will thrive and grow.”

“In an area that has been so hard hit by natural disasters, we are awed by the strength of the people of the Gulf region,” said Cheryl Fishbein, chair of JFNA’s Emergency Committee. “We send our support and prayers to those affected by Hurricane Isaac, and will stand beside them as they recover and rebuild.”

Schools resumed classes on Tuesday, and the JCC pools reopened earlier this week after both pools had some storm damage.

Meanwhile, as the storm continued its meandering path through the area, NECHAMA: Jewish Response to Disaster was already on the ground, setting up shop with AmeriCorps in Vicksburg and then in Waveland, Miss. They were one of the first organizations in the area.

NECHAMA’s initial effort was helping people restore their homes, focusing on Jackson County and other areas in southern Mississippi that were hit with storm surge and flooding.

The organization plans an initial response through Sept. 14. “If in the coming weeks there are still pressing needs to be addressed and if we are able to raise funds to stay longer, we will consider extending our deployment.”

On Tuesday, the NECHAMA team was visited by David Myers, director of the Department of Homeland Security’s Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. They are working with All Hands Volunteers to “cover more ground during our assessment phase by sharing information gathered and evaluating the damage, needs, and resources present.”

They do have their limits on what they can do. They confirmed media reports of “thousands of dead giant rat creatures” on the beaches, and noted that their deployment “will not include cleaning up said nutria.”

Allies of Israel at the University of New Orleans is holding a canned food drive for those affected by Isaac. They are placing boxes from Second Harvest Food Bank around campus.