By Yaacov Noah Gothard
Myron Goldberg, a contempo admiral of New Orleans’ Aggregation Beth Israel whose Uptown New Orleans home was abounding and whose accouterment business had been looted, was one of dozens of Hurricane Katrina evacuees accessory a affair at the Marcus Jewish Association Center in Dunwoody one anniversary afterwards the storm fabricated landfall Aug. 29, 2005.
Beth Israel aloof a few canicule afterwards Katrina’s flood amnion ripped through the congregation
“All of the agencies and casework from Atlanta were there,” Goldberg said. “After all the presentations were made, they asked if we bare annihilation or had any questions. We aloof sat there. The bounded clergyman that was there got up and said, ‘You are all in denial. You are in shock, and you are in denial. All of your activity you accept been givers, and now you are receivers, and you don’t apperceive how to ask.’ He was 100 percent correct. We were in shock. We didn’t apperceive what to do.”
Meanwhile, Beth Israel Admiral Jackie Gothard was activity to beddy-bye in her son Sander’s home in Dallas, praying to G-d to anticipate the unthinkable. “We knew about the break in the levee, and we knew that we had baptize in the shul. I would go to beddy-bye at night praying that the Torah scrolls were aloft the flood level.”
Jackie’s husband, above Beth Israel lath affiliate Adjudicator Sol Gothard, said, “We couldn’t appear aback home for three weeks because there was no power, no animate gas stations, no accessible grocery food or restaurants, and the burghal was in a accompaniment of emergency.”
When association returned, Jackie Gothard and adolescent congregant Jacob Kansas begin aition at the shul. Gothard said: “The bottle walls on either ancillary of the advanced doors had been comatose bottomward by the floodwaters that had risen 8.5 feet. Big timberline branches were in the building. All the adoration books and tallisim were on the floor, covered with mud. The massive bimah had floated 8 anxiety up and had appear to blow on top of the benches in the women’s section. Black and white cast was growing everywhere.”
The seven Torahs, some as old as the 101-year-old synagogue, were broke admitting the accomplishment of ZAKA’s Clergyman Isaac Leder, who had entered the shul in a automatic bulk canicule afterwards the storm.
The $2 actor architecture and its contents, however, were not the alone losses. “We additionally absent our rabbi, who relocated to New Jersey afterwards the storm as he had no abode to live,” Sol Gothard said. “We absent amidst 30 and 40 percent of our associates at that time. So I thought, ‘How can this shul possibly survive? How can it possibly abide with acutely beneath membership, no building, no apostolic residence, no rabbi, no Torahs, yarmulkes, adoration books or tallisim? No income? A few months afore the storm, we had aloof spent $175,000 on a new air-conditioning system.”
“It was affectionate of a triage,” Jacob Kansas’ son Alan, a lawyer, said of his aboriginal few canicule aback in the city. “I had absent my house, my ancestors was active in a rental abode in Houston, and it wasn’t aloof about the shul. Everyone had their own Katrina adventure that they were in the average of.”
“Once I knew that I and my ancestors were safe and our homes were intact, I could apply on seeing what it would booty to accumulate Beth Israel alive,” Jackie Gothard said. “Do we advertise the property, bend up as a congregation, let our 100-year-old Beth Israel go with the flow? A few said yes. But those of us whose grandparents and parents were the founding associates of Beth Israel said no. I did not appetite to be remembered as the aboriginal changeable admiral and aftermost admiral of our admired congregation. Afterwards Rosh Hashanah at Conservative Shir Chadash, we absitively that we capital a Beth Israel Yom Kippur. We had nine canicule to assignment on it.”
On Oct. 13, 50 of the 400 shul associates aggregate in the antechamber of a Comfort Suites on acreage purchased seven years beforehand from Sol Gothard, which the adjudicator had bought with his father-in-law, Ralph Pressner, 30 years before. “Do you anticipate my dad is animated bottomward on us as we beam Yom Kippur as a Beth Israel aggregation on acreage he already owned?” Jackie Gothard asked the congregation. “The way he admired his shul, I absolutely anticipate so.”
Eddie Gothard, the alone one of bristles Gothard ancestors still active in New Orleans, “had put a box of Kleenex at the end of every added aisle. He was singing Kol Nidre. We were coping. We were aggravating to pray,” said Goldberg, who fabricated it aback from Atlanta in time for the holidays. “My 25-year-old son, Aaron, came with me on Kol Nidre, and he couldn’t appear aback the aing day. It was too adamantine on him.”
Almost 80 congregants did appearance up for Yom Kippur day.
“We were all absolutely brittle and beholden to see anniversary other,” said Debra Namias, a aggregation affiliate and amusing worker.
“I was on the road. I was out 10 months and homeless. I acclimated friends, ancestors and acceptance to cope. G-d was the base of everything. G-d played a role in this. There was a purpose in it, and G-d had a abode for me,” she said. The Yom Kippur casework “gave us acceptance and achievement that we would appear through this, and we did.”
Congregations beyond the country donated bristles Torahs to alter the ones Beth Israel absent in the post-Katrina flood.
Three Yeshiva University acceptance led casework with a adopted Torah and donated adoration books. Bounded historian Irwin Lachoff, whose father, admired gabbai Meyer Lachoff, had died in a nursing home two canicule afterwards Katrina, affected his father’s role.
Jackie Gothard delivered the address while continuing amidst the few items salvaged from the abbey (three assumption menorahs, a few yads and a bimah cover), in advanced of a mechitzah fabricated from sand-filled Home Depot buckets, broomsticks and auberge bedsheets, and with the balm of waffles and bacon afloat in from the auberge breakfast buffet.
“No clergyman in the apple could accept accustomed that drash at that point in time at that accurate place,” her bedmate said. “Men are declared to be a little tougher, and I am not decumbent to arrant so quickly, but this got to me as no added address I had anytime heard in my life. … Logically, there was no way in the apple that this abbey could abide to exist. It was not possible, but she fabricated it possible. She absolute Beth Israel to exist.”
Jackie Gothard said Yom Kippur fabricated her apprehend Beth Israel could survive. “I said in my address that two weeks afterwards Katrina we apprehend in our synagogues, according to the astrologer Isaiah, this affiance from G-d: ‘I accept affidavit that the amnion of Noah nevermore would flood the earth.’ G-d promised never afresh to abort the accomplished apple by flood. Would we cartel to say that the floodwaters destroyed our accomplished world? Of advance there is affliction and anguish and blow of ancestors treasures, but our accomplished worlds are not our furniture, our roofs, our businesses, our cars, our clothes. Those are alone genitalia of our accomplished world. The important apparatus of our apple are anniversary added — our admired ones, our friends, our neighbors, our association — and our accord with our G-d.”
Her address acclaimed some of the abounding disasters Jews accept overcome, from the aition of the Temples to the Holocaust, and she assured that if the Jewish bodies could survive those disasters, Beth Israel could appear aback from Katrina’s floodwaters.
“Listening to the adventure Jackie told was heart-rending. We had our lives. We had to clean with what we had,” Goldberg said.
“The storm was a wake-up alarm so the abbey would survive,” lifetime affiliate Dr. Hilton Title said. “A abbey is the bodies who accomplish it what it is. The administration was the allegorical light. I anticipate it was the beat by the Jewish community, nationally and internationally, the access of support, that gave our abbey a flame, a catalyst, to survive.”
You can apprehend the abounding address at bethisraelnola.com/wp-content/uploads/Presidents_Message_2005.pdf.
Former Aggregation Beth Israel Admiral Jackie Gothard weeps at the burying of the Orthodox shul’s seven flood-destroyed Torahs in 2005.
Three synagogues offered to abode Beth Israel, which accustomed the action from the Reform Aggregation Gates of Prayer, amid in Metairie aural a half-mile of Aggregation Shir Chadash, Chabad of Metairie and the JCC/Federation complex. “We are as advanced as an Orthodox aggregation can be, and Gates of Adoration is as acceptable as a Reform aggregation can be, so it was a accustomed shidduch,” Sol Gothard said. “Their rabbi, Bob Loewy, was additionally our best in Federation, as Beth Israel suffered added banking and basement blow than all the added synagogues combined. I asked him, ‘Bob, why are you so acceptable to us?’ and he said, ‘Because this association needs you.’ ”
Two years afterwards the storm, the Orthodox Union beatific bottomward three apostolic candidates at Beth Israel’s request. The abbey chose Clergyman Uri Topolosky, whose wife, Dahlia, said: “On our aboriginal appointment to New Orleans together, Uri and I looked at the Hebrew adduce on the advanced of the broke shul: ‘They shall accomplish for me a altar that I may abide amidst them.’ We were both cerebration the aforementioned thing: This was the adduce we had called to address on our bells allurement as a adoration for our own lives — our achievement to additionally body a home area G-d’s attendance ability dwell. And actuality we were continuing in advanced of Beth Israel, staring at these aforementioned words, and I said, ‘Uri, it’s beshert. This is area we were meant to be.’ ”
Rabbi David Posternock, whom the abbey assassin as its ambassador in 2008, said he additionally acquainted a college calling. “I absolutely saw the job announcement on Valentine’s Day, and it was 2:14 p.m. on Feb. 14, so I looked up Genesis Chapter 2, Verse 14, and it talked about the Garden of Eden. To this day I am assertive that G-d beatific me to my Garden of Eden. I absolved assimilate New Orleans soil, I smelled the air, and it acquainted like home.”
Dahlia Topolosky said: “I was never in a burghal area there was such a accord of ability and music and spirit. I was never in a burghal area bodies admired their burghal so much. In our shul there was a faculty of intergenerational relationship, and I acquainted as aing with bodies in their 90s as with the adolescent bodies affective into town. You acquainted a absolute faculty of family.”
“To use Clergyman Uri’s admired word, he was unbelievable,” Jackie Gothard said. “He went all over the country accepting banking support. New associates started joining. Congregants became added involved. He was charismatic. Uri backward with us until the new abbey was built, which was his goal.”
Rabbi Topolosky said: “One of the things I did was I focused a lot on association collaboration, so that we could be allotment of the communitywide growth. New Orleans has a different airy quality, the Carnival, that carries over to abbey life. That absolute activity has a admirable appulse on spirituality. You can point to the active adherence of Jackie Gothard. You can acknowledge the adherence of Eddie Gothard and Richard Katz to accomplish abiding that the abbey would be financially applicable continued appellation and that we’d accept a admirable altar to airing into.”
Photo by Alexander Barkoff Clergyman Uri and Dahlia Topolosky advance the celebratory advance from Aggregation Gates of Adoration to the new home of Beth Israel aing aperture in 2012.
Eddie Gothard and Alexander Barkoff served as the abbey architecture board co-chairmen.
On Aug. 26, 2012, about seven years to the day afterwards the storm, over 400 congregants, guests and dignitaries followed an all-female, African-American assumption bandage as bristles Torahs accustomed by communities beyond the nation were danced from Gates of Adoration to the beauteous new altar aing aperture on acreage bought from the Reform congregation.
“There were hundreds of bodies from all over the community, all over the country, bodies who hadn’t been aback aback the storm, bodies who had larboard afore the storm and hadn’t apparent anniversary added in 20 years,” Clergyman Posternock said. “The horns were afire central the new sanctuary. You couldn’t apprehend yourself think. It was alarming to feel such love. It was incredible.”
In 2014, a year afterwards the Topoloskys confused to accept the administration of Beth Joshua Aggregation in Rockville, Md., Beth Israel absorbed Clergyman Gabe Greenberg from the administration of the University of California-Berkeley Hillel.
“The aboriginal weekend I came bottomward to appointment the shul, they took me out to eat some beignets afterwards Shabbat, and I aback affiliated the job of ensuring the adequate cachet of three Café du Monde locations in Metairie and the French Quarter,” Clergyman Greenberg said. “There are two Jewish Mardi Gras crews, Krewe du Jieux and Krewe du Mishigas. Every anniversary we sing Adon Olam to ‘When the Saints Go Marching In.’ One of the adequate restaurants fabricated baron cakes this year, and we’ve got two added adequate eateries aperture soon. It is absolutely candied active in Metairie and walking to a array on our artery aural the eruv on Shabbat.”
He added: “Seeing how the association is growing makes me feel that we are allotment of a rich, activating history that has gone through cogent changes for hundreds of years, Katrina actuality aloof one of them, and that will abide to change and abound in the future.”
“The storm assuredly accomplished off our shul, but it paved the way for the activation of a smaller, aboriginal architecture that reflected the accepted smaller, revitalized membership,” Sol Gothard said. “The New Orleans Jewish association is aback up from 7,000 to over 10,000. Adolescent Orthodox Jews are advancing to boondocks with Avodah and Teach for America. The abridgement is thriving, and all of our shuls are growing.”
“The abbey that had been drowned came aback to life,” Clergyman Posternock said. “The adduce engraved in copse over our ark from Baron Solomon’s Song of Songs says, ‘Mighty amnion cannot extinguish our love.’ We were in a architecture board meeting, talking about carpets and acrylic for our new edifice, and Uri came up with the pasuk. Everyone went quiet. Everybody in the affair cried. Some sobbed. It was one of the best moments in my life. When moments like that happen, they are never by accident. G-d accustomed us to be in that moment with the absolute description to acquaint our story. If Katrina, one of the affliction storms that anytime hit this town, couldn’t abort us, again annihilation can.”
Yaacov Noah Gothard, the admiral of CareerPro Resumes in Sandy Springs, is the son of Jackie and Sol Gothard.
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