katrina synagogue 248 88 ap.
(photo credit: AP [file])
At this year's National Young Leadership Conference, held by the United Jewish Communities, participants won't just be talking about social service - they'll be getting their hands dirty.
On Sunday, over 600 Jewish professionals from across North America converged on New Orleans, Louisiana - landfall site of Hurricane Katrina, which decimated the city in 2005. Conference attendees will take a break from lectures and learning opportunities to restore Archbishop Hannan High School in St. Bernard Parish, which was abandoned in the wake of the hurricane.
Participants will paint murals at the school, landscape, and build fences, picnic and sports facilities - including a remote-controlled race car track and a volleyball court. The repairs should prepare the facility - once the only Catholic school in the area - to reopen its doors.
The work will be accompanied by extensive tours of flood-damaged areas in the city, which many participants are visiting for the first time.
Many learning sessions will also focus on the city's recovery. Classes will cover physical and spiritual rebuilding in New Orleans and other disaster areas; the future of Jewish social service; and innovative ways to create social service projects.
In addition to opportunities for social service and education, conference attendees will hear from a number of prominent local and state speakers, including Tulane University president Scott Cowen, New Orleans City Council member Arnie Fielkow and Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans president Dr. Michael Wasserman.
The conference is a continuation of UJC's past focus on post-Katrina New Orleans. Since the hurricane's landfall, the organization has raised nearly $30 million in aid money, allocated directly to recovery efforts.