Helping People Navigate the Troubled Times

The process of tracking people down began as the Shluchim and their families were driving out of town. People were contacted via cell phone and email to find out about their location and needs. Utilizing the amazing network of Chabad Centers all over the country, hundreds of people were soon located and assisted in countless ways.

Chabad Rabbis and volunteer spent hours searching the shelters throughout Texas and Louisiana for people in need of assistance with lodging, meals, Shabbat hospitality and money. In Houston the Chabad community, under the leadership of Rabbi Lazaroff, adopted a block of families arranPrayer Service.jpgging for apartments and furnishings. They opened their arms and institutions for the Jews of New Orleans.  Chabad communities in Florida, California, Tennessee, Texas, and many other states made short and long term arrangements for many Jewish New Orleanians. Dozens of New Orleans Jewish children were absorbed into Chabad schools all over the country tuition free. Thousands of dollars worth of gift cards were distributed to New Orleans families throughout the USA. Chabad communities from all over offered to adopt a New Orleans family and help them resettle temporarily or permanently within their community. Many families were helped and resettled with the help and support of these generous people.

Several days after Katrina an RV loaded with supplies Mississippi 6carrying a team of Chabad yeshiva students, under the leadership of Shlame Landa, arrived at the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The young men made contact with many of the Jewish residents with offers to assist them in any way possible.Mississippi 2 The offer was received with open arms.  They helped gut homes and remove mold. They distributed thousands of Kosher self heating meals (MRE) and bottles of water. And of course they prayed witMississippi 5h and offered spiritual support to the hurricane victims. President Bush acknowledged the contributions of Chabad to the Hurricane Katrina relief efforts in Mississippi and the New Orleans area. (See video clip.)

A similar team was operating in Baton Rouge. After serving as support staff to theMREs.jpg SAR missions, the yeshiva students in Baton Rouge visited shelters and emergency response locations where they distributed Kosher MREs and arranged for Jewish evacuees to be flown to family members around the country.  Chabad’s Baton Rouge team, under the leadership of Mendy Traxler, also played an important role in catering to Jewish needs of emergency response personnel. Headquartered in an apartment in Baton RougeHavdalah service.jpg provided by a generous benefactor, they offered Shabbat and High Holiday services and meals and an exhaustive supply of Kosher MREs. Through the efforts of Chabad of California a planeload of medical supplies was flown in from California to the hardest hit areas of the hurricane zone. They also arranged, in partnership with Chabad of San Antonio, for a carnival that was held at a shelter in San Antonio to bring joy to the children who were evacuated there.

Witapple.jpgh Rosh Hashanah approaching plans got underway to create a community away from home for New Orleans Jews. The result was “New Orleans Unites For Rosh Hashanah,” a three day all expenses paid retreat in Monroe, Louisiana over Rosh Hashanah.  150 people attended, coming from Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, Tennessee and New York. Buses were hired to transport people from Houston and Memphis. A refrigerated truck filled to the brim with three days worth of catered meals for 150 people was driven from New York by two Chabad Yeshiva students, Mendy Stone and Mendy Lieberman. Along the way they stopped off to make a midnight delivery of Challah to a family in Mississippi whose usual supply from New Orleans was unavailable. Challah Mississippi.jpg The Hakim family of Monroe provided their hotel at a discounted rate and the hotel staff was very accommodating to all of the unique needs, even acquiring fish for their pond so that the Tashlich ceremony could be performed. It was an unforgettable three days during which the community prayed, ate, laughed and cried together.


The emergency task force also established the Chabad Hurricane Relief Fund through which hundreds of people were given financial assistance to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars. The devastating financial impact of the storm hit even those who were well of before the storm and now found themselves in need of help with even the basics of their life. The funds were allocated in a way that the dignity and self respect of the recipients was maintained. Chabad set up a goods distribution center in a rented garage in Houston with the helHouston 1.jpgp of the Houston Chabad’s Hurricane response team. A truckload of goods was shipped down to Houston by the Ramaz school of New York and goods from many other sources were sent as well. Over three months scores of people came to pick up items ranging from food, household items, clothing, Judaica, toys and baby supplies. Cases of goods were also sent to various shelters in New Orleans and Houston.

Chabad Hurricane Relief Fund also partnered with several other groups, including the OU and NCYI, to help provide exiled New Orleanians with their holiday needs. Thousands of dollars were spent on providing families with a Lulav and Etrog set. Many people were presented with a brand new Menorah to replace the one that was destroyed or left behind in New Orleans. Kiddush cups, challah boards and covers and even Seder plates were given to many families.