19 February 2006

What's Doin' In New Orleans?

My sister, who is spending her senior semester in college at Tulane University in New Orleans has the following to report on the situation in New Orleans:
Guest blogger: Sister

Let's say you're sitting around a Shabbos table... or any other
gathering of people. How often since September or October
has that conversation turned to talk of New Orleans? Okay, so
your world doesn't revolve around me (which would be kind of
cool - or creepy) or my life, but I want to, briefly, use my
brother's blog as a forum for just that.

Let me start by saying this: I'm lucky! I'm so fortunate that my first
floor apartment wasn't wiped out by the flooding brought on by
Katrina - it flooded 80% of the city, along with flooded nearby
areas. Even houses and apartments that didn't flood the
"traditional" way of water gushing into them from below had
their roofs torn off by the winds of the storm so that rainwater
could work it's magic. It's been half a year - why the hell should
you care?

Because so much of New Orleans has been damaged that this
city which is such a special and unique part of America is facing
ridiculous challenges (and not fully succeeding). If a general
appeal to tikkun olam doesn't do it for you - who cares? - isn't
what happens in some corner of the South in a traditionally Catholic
city someone else's problem? - minor detail that it's an American
city which the government at all levels failed to help or save in its
ongoing crisis.

Okay, so a nudge for the Jewish aspect of things. Over winter
break I volunteered through Chabad on Campus and we did lots
of things, including gut houses and a synagogue which had been
thoroughly flooded, molded, ruined. We had a book burial
ceremony which we buried perhaps thousands of seforim, along
with mezuzot (yes, it flooded that high) and a Torah from both the
shul and private homes. Videos, pictures, etc. here:

What can you, sitting around NYC (or in the area...who are we
kidding?), do? Since I've been here in mid-December I've been
overjoyed by meeting all of the individuals who take time out of
their life to come down here and get their hands dirty in cleaning
up and rebuilding. If you don't think that's for you, that's only
because you've never had the fun of ripping out molded dry wall
and smashing stuff with a mallet - great stress relief! People
from all over have come down here (including my brother and
other YCT guys), in fact, there are two high school students here
this Shabbos from Michigan who drove down on a whim to
volunteer for Habitat for Humanity this coming week while off of
school. Many of these aren't people with vested care for the city
of New Orleans and have never been here before, but understand
that this is an American city in her time of need.

Can't come down here? What about writing to your
Congress(wo)man to make sure to vote to spend more money
strengthening the levees around New Orleans - the flooding of the
city was a man-made disaster creating by shoddy levee
construction. Still too much to ask of you? Then go back to my
opening sentence. Next Shabbos dinner ask if anyone knows
how the city is doing, at Shabbos lunch ask if anyone has the
time and ability to help a crushed city. Next Shabbos is the
Shabbos before New Orleans first post-Katrina Mardi Gras, one
that already got off to a poor start with small parades this
weekend, and a probable lack of tourists (which has really
been hitting the city's economy hard!). Yes, even being a
tourist here is important for the money it brings into the city!

Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler!
~Alexis :)

Tags: New Orleans, Mardi Gras, Hurricane Katrina, Katrina Relief, tikkun olam,
Alexis Kaplan, Habitat for Humanity, Chabad, tourism

1 comment:

Yochanan Rivkin said...

Next Shabbos is theShabbos before New Orleans first post-Katrina Mardi Gras, onethat already got off to a poor start with small parades thisweekend, and a probable lack of tourists (which has reallybeen hitting the city's economy hard!). Yes, even being atourist here is important for the money it brings into the city!Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler!
Please note: Alexis is in no way endorsing Jewish people attending Mardi Gras parades, due to the dubious Halchicity of such activity. She refers to the Mardi Gras parades in the abstract, as an example of what a non-Jew might come to New Orleans for. Certainly, Jews can think of other reasons to come to New Orleans and spend their money (The first ever Purim Tumble through the streets of Uptown, perhaps?)