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Commemorating Katrina: Reform Jewish Movement Calls for More Reconstruction

Feldman: We will best honor the memory of those who were lost by rebuilding the damaged cities and providing for the spiritual, emotional, and economic well-being of the hurricanes’ victims.

Contact Sean Thibault, 202.387.2800 |

Washington, DC |August 28, 2006 – Noting the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and the devastation wrought upon the Gulf Coast, and particularly the City of New Orleans, Rabbi Marla Feldman, Director of the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:

As we observe the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the natural and man-made disaster that struck the Gulf Coast last August, we mark a watershed moment in U.S. history and, in Jewish tradition, we commemorate far too many yahrzeits (the annual anniversary of someone’s death). We mourn the loss of life, the separation of families, the destruction of homes and livelihoods and the continued dislocation of the hurricane’s victims. We continue to pray for those who lost so much and who continue to experience suffering beyond what many of us ever could imagine.

The devastation is not limited to the past. Hundreds of thousands of Americans continue to struggle with the impact of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and the City of New Orleans still faces an uncertain future. More than 200,000 houses remain damaged in Louisiana, and the region is still dealing with the largest number of displaced persons since the Civil War.

This dark anniversary, this yahrzeit, comes just a few days into the Hebrew month of Elul, during which we prepare for the upcoming Jewish High Holy Days by taking time to reflect on the year that has passed and prepare for the year ahead. As we reflect upon, and seek forgiveness for, our failings of the past year, we are acutely aware that our national and individual efforts to aid those in need have been lacking. As we remember those who lost their lives, we also must consider how much still must be done to revitalize the Gulf Coast and assist the victims who remain without homes and community. We will best honor the memory of those who were lost by rebuilding the damaged cities and providing for the spiritual, emotional, and economic well-being of the hurricanes’ victims.

Further, the gulf between New Orleans's rich and poor, which became so apparent in the immediate aftermath, sadly has defined the recovery efforts. That gap, which we ignored in the years preceding Katrina, and which the hurricane forced us to acknowledge, again has faded from national consciousness. We must dedicate ourselves to rebuilding and improving the lives of those affected by the hurricanes and to learning how to prevent and mitigate the damage from future natural disasters.

To that end, the Reform Jewish Movement has provided more than $4 million dollars to relief efforts, managed a disaster relief center in the immediate aftermath, sent volunteer teams to help rebuild, and joined with other faith and civic groups to provide much-needed relief. But the faith community alone cannot do all that is needed.

On this anniversary, we call on our elected officials to redouble efforts to collectively and decisively respond to the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina. It is up to all of us to consider the needs of the region’s young, poor, and disaffected. Affordable housing, quality schools, and crime prevention are all crucial elements to rebuilding a vibrant Gulf Coast.

As we pray for the recovery of the region and mourn the tragedy that has befallen it, we also commit ourselves to working for a better future for the Gulf Coast and all its citizens.


The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the
Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose more than 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes more than 1800 Reform rabbis.

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