The word from New Orleans is that there has been no major damage to Jewish institutions in the aftermath of Hurricane Isaac, and the worst has passed.
In a community update, Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans Executive Director Michael Weil said Isaac, downgraded to a tropical storm, is now mainly a rain event, and “most of us are now without power, Internet, air conditioning and some without cell phone reception.” Over 700,000 are currently without power, with repairs slated to begin today as winds go below 35 miles per hour.
Many in the community evacuated, with Alabama and Texas being major destinations. Others have left their homes and gone to area hotels. Many homes and businesses were flooded by the deluge.
The Causeway is still closed because of water topping the bridge, but may reopen tonight. The airport remains closed today, and there is flooding in places like Slidell and Mandeville. Further toward the Gulf, in Plaquemines parish, there is severe flooding.
In addition to storm surge, Isaac is bringing heavy rain, estimated in some places to be as much as two feet by the time the storm passes. The storm as of this morning was centered around Baton Rouge, and is heading to Shreveport.
The New Orleans Federation is posting community messages on their website. A voice message, updated at least every 24 hours, is (800) 510-8133. Messages may not be left at that number, but emails may be sent to emergency (at) jewishnola (dot) com.
New Orleans’ Partnership 2Gether community in Israel, Rosh Ha’Ayin, is “thinking of you in these difficult times, and hope the storm will pass quickly and safely. We send you our love and support.”
New Orleans Jewish Family Service offices remain closed, but they have this information for those in need. Lifeline emergencies should call (800) 635-6156. Those with a mental health emergency should go to the nearest emergency room or call the Via Link COPE-line, (800) 749-2673, or dial 211.
Emergency planning information or needs are through the city’s help line, 311.
The New Orleans Jewish Community Center is closed today, and they hope to reopen the fitness facilities on Friday, if power is available. The JCC nursery school will be closed on Friday; classes will resume on Tuesday following Labor Day.
Gates of Prayer in Metairie is planning on its normal weekend schedule — Shabbat evening at 8 p.m., Taste of Torah at 9:15 Saturday morning and Shabbat morning services at 10:30 am. Their power is on as of this morning, and according to Louis Geiger they had a little water on the floor "from wind driven rain" and minor roof leaks. "The Torahs are safe. Coffee is on" and some people without electricity have gathered there to hang out.
This is the last weekend for the community's joint Reform services -- every summer Gates of Prayer, Touro and Sinai combine efforts and each hosts for one month. This will be a "blue jeans Shabbat" at Gates of Prayer, this month's host.
Next door, Beth Israel, which only last weekend dedicated its new building, will have services as scheduled. The day after the congregation celebrated moving into its new home after the previous building was rendered unusable after the storm seven years ago, many congregants headed out of town to avoid Isaac.
Across the road, Shir Chadash also has power and is in good shape, regular services are on for this weekend. Rabbi Ethan Linden said "most of the city is still without power and the weather here is still terrible." But a Bar Mitzvah will go on as scheduled, if not quite as planned. Jack Adler and his family are currently returning to the city after evacuating to Birmingham, and he told his family that he wanted to have the ceremony at Shir Chadash.
The congregation will have a Shabbat dinner at 6:15 p.m., because "we have power, we have food, we figured why not?" Anyone who wishes to attend should contact the Shir Chadash office.
Chabad of New Orleans planned to continue holding daily minyan, at 7 a.m. at the New Orleans Chabad House, and 7 p.m. at the Chabad Center in Metairie.
Rabbi Yochanan Rivkin, director of Chabad at Tulane, posted a photo of a large tree that had fallen into the road on Freret in front of Fogelman. He and his family stayed in town to assist students during the storm.
In Baton Rouge, the Hillel At Lsu Welcome Back Dinner was cancelled and will be rescheduled. According to Ellen Sager, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Baton Rouge, there are no major issues among the Jewish institutions there.
Congregation B'nai Israel had planned a fundraiser for Aug. 29, a Komedy Kickoff at Baton Rouge Little Theater. They postponed the show in deference to the safety of the community, and will reschedule soon.
In Alexandria, Jewish recording artist Judy Caplan Ginsburgh reported “lots of limbs down, but calm right now.”