New Orleans Jewish centers close due to hurricane

Jewish community prepares for Hurricane Issac; Rabbi Nemes says general mood 'calm and hopeful.'

August 30, 2012 00:25
2 minute read.
Hurricane Isaac in the Gulf of Mexico

Hurricane Isaac in the Gulf of Mexico 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/NASA NASA)


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All Jewish community facilities in New Orleans were closed Wednesday in preparation for Hurricane Isaac.

In a letter on the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans’s website, executive director Michael Weil thanked Jews in Israel and all over the world for their concern.

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“It’s a nice feeling to know that while all the shops, offices and community facilities are closed, and we are closed in at home, we are not alone,” Weil wrote.

“We are part of a great warm and resilient community, not only in New Orleans but around the Jewish world. I have been inundated with phone calls and emails from friends around the country, Israel and around the world. It’s a big comfort.”

Rabbi Yossie Nemes, who directs the Chabad synagogue in the New Orleans suburb Metairie, said from Atlanta that the general the mood in New Orleans was calm and hopeful.

“Last night people were anxious as the winds were storming and the rain falling,” he said. “By Thursday we will be hopefully past this and hopefully there won’t be major flooding with the rain. Bottom line: Isaac is no Katrina, but still a dangerous and difficult, slow-moving storm. May Hashem continue to protect us.”

Before Nemes left New Orleans, he covered the Torah scrolls in his synagogue with waterproof jackets.

Reflecting on the name of the hurricane, Weil commented on the Isaac of the Bible, who he said was less charismatic than the other forefathers.

“Isaac was weak and manipulated by his wife and sons,” he said. “He was more reactive than proactive and left very little mark on our heritage.”

Tulane Hillel director Yonah Schiller, who welcomed 500 freshman students and their parents two days before Isaac's arrival, said he did not expect his power to return until after Shabbat. He had a different take on the hurricane's name than Weil.

"Traditionally Isaac symbolizes gevurah (might)," Schiller said. "Yet, with so much of the chesed (loving-kindness) traditionally symbolized by Abraham in this special city of New Orleans, we are doing just fine. We are safe, happy and a little wet."

Earlier Wednesday, floodwater from Hurricane Isaac jumped a levee on the outskirts of New Orleans but the multibillion-dollar barriers built to protect the city itself after the 2005 Katrina disaster were not breached, officials said.

The lumbering Category 1 hurricane was lashing the Gulf Coast, threatening to flood towns in Mississippi and Louisiana with a deluge of rain, storm surges of up to 3.7 m. and top sustained winds up to 120 kph.

Isaac is the first test for the $14.5 billion flood defense system of walls, floodgates, levees and pumps built after Katrina’s storm surge.

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