Jewish Big Easy's Back — In Time for Super Bowl

New Orleans Community Trumpets Comeback After Katrina

Getty Images

By Seth Berkman

Published February 01, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

The Jewish Big Easy is back — and the Super Bowl proves it.

New Orleans Jews are eagerly trumpeting Super Bowl XLVII as a means to showcase their rebuilt community, almost seven and a half years after it suffered a devastating drop in population following Hurricane Katrina.

“We were impacted by Katrina just like everyone else,” said Rabbi Robert Loewy, of Congregation Gates of Prayer. “As proud New Orleanians, we are delighted to see the Super Bowl hosted here.”

Yossie Nemes, rabbi of the Chabad Jewish Center of Suburban New Orleans, said the big game is evidence that the Crescent City has come all the way back.

In fact, the population of Jews in New Orleans now is higher than it was before the storm, having gone from 9,500 then to 9,800 today, according to Michael Weil, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans.

That represents a stunning turnaround. Weil noted that after Hurricane Katrina, some 3,000 to 3,500 of New Orleans’s were displaced. And an aging Jewish population threatened to decrease those numbers even greater in the years afterward.

“The city is really coming back in good shape; the Jewish community is strong now,” said Nemes. “The synagogues, Chabad, federations — everyone is positioned possibly stronger than before, and hopefully anticipating good times again.”

The biggest game in American sports will return to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on February 3, for the first time since 2002. Nemes said his phone has been “ringing off the hook” with calls from Jews in Baltimore and San Francisco since the conclusion of the conference championship games January 20, which saw the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens punch their tickets to New Orleans. Callers are inquiring about Jewish life in the city, said Nemes, and he has been helping prospective

visitors locate kosher restaurants and lodging, as area hotels have been booked for months.

Michael A. Bernstein, who became senior vice president for academic affairs and provost at Tulane University in 2007, arrived in the city two years after Katrina when there were still “FEMA trailers everywhere,” he said. Bernstein hailed the return of the game as “a moment of pride” and “a symbol of our resilience, rebirth and revitalization overall.”

Thousands of Jewish volunteers arrived to help with the city’s rehabilitation after the storm, and hundreds of them stayed behind, drawn to an accessible Jewish life and to the city’s own brand of eccentricity.

Rabbi Yonah Schiller, executive director of Tulane’s Hillel, said he moved to the city in 2008 because it held tightly “to its rich unique culture while setting out to reimagine and reinvent what it wanted to be, as it transitioned from recovery to renewal,” a process he termed “very Jewish.” Schiller said New Orleans leads the country in startups-per-capita and is among the highest-ranking metro areas for employment growth. “The Jewish community has been part of that process,” he said.

Adding to the enticement of settling down in the Big Easy were grants and complimentary memberships to local synagogues and organizations, offered by the local federation.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • “You will stomp us into the dirt,” is how her mother responded to Anya Ulinich’s new tragicomic graphic novel. Paul Berger has a more open view of ‘Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: Hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan yesterday demanding an end to American support for Israel’s operation in #Gaza.
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.