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September 08, 2005 - Image 78

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2005-09-08

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Hurricane Katrina

Hurricane Baby

Amid the chaos, Jewish 4-day-old reunited with his parents.

CHANAN TI GAY
Jewish Telegraphic Agency

New York
s Hurricane Katrina threat-
ened to destroy them, thou-
sands fled the Gulf Coast in
search of higher ground, leaving
behind a host of valuables.
But for Tad and Lani Breaux, a
Jewish couple from New Orleans,
evacuation meant leaving behind their
4-day-old child.
Zachary Breaux was in the neonatal
intensive-care unit at a New Orleans
hospital when his parents were forced
to run for their lives, thinking that as
in past hurricanes, their evacuation
would last only several days. They
ended up in Houston, safe but uncer-
tain about their young son's fate.
Desperate for information, they
turned to Adam Bronstone, the direc-
tor of the New Orleans Jewish
Community Relations Council and
the head of communications for the
Jewish Federation of Greater New
Orleans. He was also in Houston.
Bronstone contacted several poten-
tial sources, including U.S. Army offi-
cials, in a frantic attempt to track
down baby Zachary. They found him
in the late afternoon on Thursday,
Sept. 1. Zachary had been shuttled
out of New Orleans on a plane, along
with 60 adults and three children. He
was sent to Cook Hospital in Fort
Worth.
Later that evening, Tad and Lani
Breaux were reunited with their miss-
ing child. They were flown to Fort
Worth aboard a plane provided by
Angel Flight — a nonprofit organiza-
tion of pilots and other volunteers.
Amid scenes of growing chaos and
despair, the reunion was a welcome bit
of good news. Mostly though, devel-
opments in the region were disheart-
ening.
The official death toll is predicted to
climb into the thousands in Katrina's
aftermath. Houston quickly became a
major haven for victims of the
destructive storm. Some 15,000
Louisiana evacuees were housed in the
Astrodome sports stadium and tens of
thousands of others are elsewhere in
the city.

A

SN

9/ 8
2005

78

The Jewish Federation of Greater
Houston has joined an interfaith coali-
tion taking responsibility for feeding
the Astrodome influx for the next 30
days, a service that the federal govern-
ment is not providing, said the federa-
tion's CEO, Lee Wunsch. The effort
will require 700 to 800 volunteers
each day and is expected to cost $7-8
million.
"We're trying to raise the money to
make a sizable contribution to that,"
he said Between Sept. 1 and 2 alone,
the federation had raised about
$75,000 in online donations and more
money was coming in from other
sources.
The federation is also working to
meet Jewish evacuees' housing, school-
ing, health-care and religious needs. A
number of New Orleans families are
now living with families in Houston,
Wunsch said, and local day schools are
allowing students from New Orleans
to enroll for free.
The Maimonides Society, a group of
Jewish doctors in Houston, is helping
evacuees with medical concerns, and
local rabbis are coordinating Jewish
religious needs.

Biloxi's Beth Israel Congregation, the only synagogue on the Mississippi coast, still
stands two blocks from the beach, though the building suffered heavy damage.

Synagogues in the Houston area are
providing free Shabbat meals and are
expected to open their doors to evac-
uee families. At Congregation Beth
Yeshuran, members are making room
in their homes for those with no place
to go and have prepared welcome
packages of toiletries, snacks and bev-
erages.
The synagogue was also arranging
kosher meals, and sent 250 volunteers
to the Astrodome this week.
Hurricane damage in the Gulf
region was staggering. It remained
unclear, however, how sites of Jewish
concern fared in the storm. Those
with knowledge of New Orleans geog-
raphy said that, based on news reports
about damage to particular neighbor-
hoods, they suspected that some
buildings, including a Jewish museum,
were badly damaged or destroyed.
The New Orleans federation was
coordinating with several volunteers
planning a return to the area this week

and was expecting to receive word on
the condition of Jewish buildings from
them.
After a grueling 12-hour trip in a
three-car convoy, Rabbi Mendel
Rivkin, the program director at
Chabad Lubavitch of Louisiana,
arrived in Houston. "Just in the
Chabad House-Tulane area, though
the flooding was not that bad [when
we left], the downed trees and power
lines and the debris completely cover
the streets," he said.
Other postings listed New Orleans
families who had been heard from or
were known to be safe. In addition to
the 5,000 or so Jews thought to have
landed in Houston, Jews also ended
up in Birmingham, Ala.; Nashville;
Atlanta; Austin, Texas; Dallas; cities in
Florida; and elsewhere. Many also fled
to Memphis.
Of the estimated 16-17,000 Jews
living in Louisiana, 13,000 lived in
New Orleans. E

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