Since the GA there has been countless coverage on so many aspects of the 4-day long event. One of the bigger events that hit the GA this year didn’t actually happen at the convention hall. Rather, it happened out in the fields where thousands of GA goers were scattered throughout New Orleans, giving back to the community. Monday afternoon after the main plenary session of the day, volunteers boarded buses and took part in an afternoon of Tikkun Olam sponsored and organized by the Federations and Repair the World.During this time, I had the pleasure of boarding a special Media Tour Bus Route where we got our hands dirty in a different way. Myself and other press-folk-type from Jewish media sectors got to see, first-hand, the miracles of the efforts that the Federation movement provided in a recovery process specifically targeted to the New Orleans and Gulf Coast communities, post Hurricane Katrina.
Upon boarding our bus, we were greeted by our guides and received a schedule for our trip along with a map that depicted the multiple failures of the levee breaches that later resulted in billions of dollars worth of direct damage.
Our first stop was to a home where we met Ms. Velma, a 71-year-old grandmother who’s life was nearly destroyed and taken from her by the storm. Michael Weil, Executive Director of the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans was waiting for us with Ms. Velma and two of her grandchildren at her rebuilt home. While there, Ms. Velma expressed her personal thanks for all that the Federation did to allow her to return to her home and for being there when she needed someone the most. “It was like a dream,” she said.
Afterward we drove around the neighborhood of Metairie, saw the damage and heard more historyand stories from our tour guides about the devastation brought to these areas. One of the most shocking bits of news for me was learning that the damage that occurred to the area they were showing us next was not due to levee breaches. Instead, it was because the pumps that were designed to move water through the man-made drainage systems in the city were turned off after the main water plant was evacuated for the storm. As we continued to snake through the neighborhoods, taking note of the houses and community around us, we drove along West Esplanade Ave, home to not only the New Orleans Jewish Day School, but also to an Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform Synagogue. It was off Esplanade that we got to stretch our legs again and get a personal tour of the NOLA Jewish Day School by the head of the school, Dr. Bob Berk. It was beautiful to see the school back on its feet after we learned it had to close for a year because of ground floor damages from flood waters ranging from two to fourteen feet in the area.
These types of trips always make me take a step back and appreciate each and every day. A big thank you and shout out to Kate on our bus for her wells of information and to everyone for a job well-done in making such a great collaborative effort of Tikkun Olam at the GA possible.