Nashville Jews Respond To Flood


The Jewish community of Nashville, largely unscathed by this week’s flooding of the Cumberland River banks, is assisting displaced members of the Jewish and wider community, Jewish leaders report.

Several hundred now-homeless Nashville citizens have found refuge at a Red Cross shelter — one of three set up locally in the wake of the flooding — at the Gordon Jewish Community Center, and the Jewish Family Service has offered counseling and financial assistance to flood victims, said Steven Edelstein, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Nashville and Middle Tennessee.

“There has been a massive show of support from the Jewish community,” Edelstein said, adding that Nashville Jews donated money to a disaster relief assistance mailbox established this week by the federation (, as well as in-kind supplies.
The federation Web site this week posted a call for volunteers
In addition the Minneapolis-based Nechama – Jewish Response to Disaster is sending supplies. “Dan Hoeft, Deployment Manager for NECHAMA will arrive next week in the Nashville area” to assess the situation, the Nechama Web site ( reported on Tuesday. “We will know more information by the end of next week.”

The federation, Jewish Center and JFS are located in the same building, which sustained no damage, Edelstein said, “We’re on high ground. We’re fine.”

The flooding knocked out power and water services to thousands of homes, submerging several blocks in the downtown tourist district.

“It’s a disaster down here,” Shaul Kelner, assistant professor of sociology and Jewish studies at Vanderbilt University, told The Jewish Week in an e-mail message.

Two Nashville synagogues and the Hillel chapter of Vanderbilt University had “insubstantial damage” by water leaks, Edelstein said. Besides a few meetings cancelled by Jewish organizations, no other Jewish buildings or institutions were affected, no Jewish events were postponed and Shabbat services are expected to be held as usual this weekend, he said.

However, Edelstein said, 19 Jewish families suffered “substantial to catastrophic” losses at their homes, but it was too early to determine the extent of the families’ damage or if they will be able to move back to their homes.

Eric Goldstein, executive director of the Jewish Center, said the facility, in addition to hosting people who had lost their homes to the flood waters, is serving as a collection and distribution point for clothing, toiletry items and other personal needs donated by Nashville residents. More than 100 volunteers donated their time to work at the building, which has expanded its hours, offering shower and locker facilities to people who can’t use their own homes.

Chabad of Nashville provided kosher meals (including food from a cancelled Lag B’Omer barbecue) to members of the Jewish community, sent volunteers to help flooded-out families clean their homes and offered counseling at the JCC shelter on a nonsectarian basis, said Rabbi Yitzchok Tiechtel. He said his children made consolation cards that were given to the flood victims.

“People were crying, they were so moved,” the rabbi said, telling about a Muslim family he counseled.

“All the synagogues are working together” to counsel flood victims and refer them to JFS and the Jewish Center, Goldstein said.

In the wake of the disastrous Katrina hurricane that struck New Orleans and other parts of the South nearly five years ago, the Nashville community hosted several dozen displaced Jewish families, and the federation offered “direct relief” assistance to several communities, Edelstein said.

This week, officials of the New Orleans’ federation called to offer their aid to Nashville.

The Nashville area is still the home to several New Orleans families displaced by Katrina, Edelstein said.

As far as he knows, he said, none of the former New Orleans residents suffered heavy damage in this week’s floods. “This was traumatic for everyone,” he said. “It was probably more traumatic for Katrina evacuees.”

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