Happy Birthday Katrina

Our friends at Jewish Funds for Justice have been highlighting the woeful road to recovery in New Orleans to mark the two-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina:

* Of $8.4 billion allocated for levee repair in Louisiana, only 20% had been spent as of July 2007, leaving whole communities inadequately protected and making it much harder to bring families home.

* $8.75 billion was lost to waste, fraud and mismanagement of federal contracts, according to a Congressional study.

* Of $16.7 billion in Community Development Block Grants, only 30% had been spent as of August 2007.

* It took 21 months for the Small Business Administration to finish processing loan applications for the recovery. (MORE)

Things have been better for the Jewish community, but uncertainty still looms:

The federation’s current annual campaign, the first since Katrina, is on track to raise more than $2.6 million, compared to the $2.8 million raised among significantly more members in the last pre-Katrina campaign. (MORE)

But the New Orleans Jewish population is down by 30%. And experts say that success depends mostly on how many current and new residents live in the Big Easy.

I consider myself lucky. I was able to visit New Orleans many times growing up through activities with USY. We held conventions, attended Mardis Gras parades (in the suburbs, albeit), enjoyed kosher Cajun cuisine, and experienced nothing but open arms form the community every time we came.

I am convinced that the Jewish community will reestablish itself. The attitudes of those involved before and after Katrina are reassuring. The new head of the federation believes that:

“There is no sense in going back to where we were before the storm. We have the opportunity now to make past dreams and new dreams of a vibrant Jewish New Orleans come true.”

However, the city as a whole is still in a desperate situation.

Happy Birthday Katrina.

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