Our synagogue flashed on the world scene in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, as a ZAKA volunteer was captured on film carrying Torah scrolls out of our flooded sanctuary. Unfortunately, those scrolls could not be salvaged, and all seven of them, along with more than 3,000 holy books were later buried in our cemetery here in New Orleans. Below is a brief timeline of events in the aftermath of the storm.
On the morning of August 29, 2005, the federal flood protection system failed in the wake of Katrina’s storm surge. Just a half mile from Beth Israel, a breach in the 17th Street Canal sent nearly 10 feet of water pouring into the Lakeview neighborhood, destroying our synagogue, and scattering our community far and wide.
September 13th, 2005 – After two weeks of being submerged in water, Beth Israel’s seven Torah scrolls are removed by Rabbi Isaac Leider of ZAKA.
September 14th, 2005 – Under direction of the synagogue leadership, Becky Heggelund, Beth Israel’s secretary, received the Torahs from ZAKA and buried them in her backyard.
October 12, 2005 – Yom Kippur services for Beth Israel are held at a hotel in Kenner with assistance from Yeshiva University who sent siddurim, a Torah, and three students. Read the Yom Kippur speech given by our past president Jackie Gothard after Hurricane Katrina.
November 2005 – Congregation Gates of Prayer opens its doors to Beth Israel to hold its services temporarily in the Bart Community Room.
December 21, 2005 – More than 3,000 holy books are buried in a special plot donated to Beth Israel by the Ahavos Shalom Cemetery.
March 19, 2006 – The Torahs are reburied in a special blot in the old Beth Israel Cemetery, next to Meyer Lachoff z”l, the congregation’s long-time gabbai who passed away in the aftermath of the storm. Click here to view pictures of Beth Israel in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Click here to read the about next chapter in our story.