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April 23, 2008 > Rebuilding New Orleans

Rebuilding New Orleans

By Bosky Panjvani
Photos By courtesy of Rabbi Avi Schulman

Two and a half years after Katrina, a devastating hurricane, New Orleans is still reeling in its aftermath. Although the main tourist area is intact, the city at large is not so fortunate. Many remain displaced, maybe permanently, and police and fire stations operate from trailers and temporary quarters. Rabbi Avi Schulman, from Temple Beth Torah of Fremont, part of an adult "Mitvah Corps" group visited this troubled city to help in the rebuilding effort. The term "Mitvah" expresses the belief in divine commandments and is often associated with good deeds and acts of human kindness toward others.

Rabbi Schulman was one of eight who worked in New Orleans from April 6 - 12 as part of the non-profit organization, "Rebuilding Together." This trip was a coordinated effort of the Union for Reform Judaism Pacific Southwest Council, the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism and the local affiliate of Rebuilding Together.

It came as a surprise and shock to see the remaining damage even two and half years after Katina struck. Visiting the heavily damaged Ninth Ward, Shulman was awed by the devastation. However, he was also buoyed by the enthusiasm of citizens that despite the widespread damage, were determined to resurrect their beloved city.

The Mitzvah Group helped to rebuild the house of local resident, "Mrs. Lewis," an 82-year-old woman who decided to live in her home even after it was heavily damaged by Katrina. Days were spent lifting and aligning new drywall for the residence. Members of the group were also able to attend a workshop in which local residents shared stories of loss and their hope for the future.

"All of us in the group were determined to work our hardest to make a difference for one family rebuilding their lives in New Orleans after Katrina," said Schulman. "We were inspired by the words of a rabbinic sage from 2,000 years ago who said: 'You are not required to complete the task, but neither are you at liberty to abstain from it.'"

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