(JTA) – New Orleans Jewish institutions remained closed Thursday as the region continued to bear the torrential rains and winds of Hurricane Isaac.
Isaac, now downgraded to a tropical storm, lashed the region in the past few days with winds up to 80 miles per hour and drove walls of water up to 11 feet high inland.
“I think that the worst is over and now it’s just rain, lots of rain and more rain,” Michael Weil, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans, wrote in an email to community members on Wednesday. “By all accounts this massive 300-mile wide and deep storm is crawling its way up Louisiana. I think Isaac likes us more than we like him and he wants to stay.”
The storm struck only three days after the community had gathered to celebrate the opening of a new home for Beth Israel Congregation, the only synagogue irreparably damaged by Hurricane Katrina.
Katrina had hit on Aug. 29, 2005 and her relentless rains led to the breaching of levees in the city, flooding it and destroying swathes of neighborhoods.
In the years since the storm, $14.5 billion has been put into a new system of levees, walls, pumping stations and flood gates, all of which seems to have performed largely well in recent days.
At Tulane University, Hillel director Yonah Schiller had welcomed 500 freshmen two days before the storm’s arrival.
"Traditionally Isaac symbolizes gevurah,” or might, Schiller told The Jerusalem Post, referencing the Biblical patriarchs Isaac and Abraham in his comments. "Yet, with so much of the chesed," 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," he said, alluding to Abraham’s hospitality.
Jewish agencies remained closed Wednesday and Thursday. However, Weil provided a list of emergency numbers and the email firstname.lastname@example.org for people to use. The federation voice mail will be updated with community information as needed, he added.
“You are not alone,” he said in closing his message.