15 St. Louis JSUers and staff joined with Kansas City and Memphis JSUers for our 3rd Relief Mission. JSUers spent four days in New Orleans “making a difference” as they gave of their time, energy and sweat to better the lives of residents of New Orleans overcoming natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina. At “Mrs. Gloria’s Garden”, they built a security fence around a large community garden to help prevent theft and poured concrete pavers. They also rolled up their sleeves at “Baby T-Rex Farm” as they planted sunflowers to help pull the heavy metals out of the soil so it will one day make it safe for farming food. Meg, the manager, told our group that we were the largest volunteer group she had ever worked with and ultimately ran out of work for us to do because “we finished two months of work in an afternoon”. The 3rd and final volunteer project was tending to plants in the nursery of a wetland restoration organization in the lower 9th ward. Once grown, these young marsh plants are transplanted into the wild to rebuild the depleted coastline of Louisiana.
The JSUers visited several historic sites to help them understand more of the context of Hurricane Katrina and the impact it had on the city. These sites included the former home of one of the synagogues destroyed in the flood, the Jewish cemetery where the Torah scrolls are buried, and the lower 9th ward where the levees broke. JSU Mission Relief Director, Rabbi Katz, served as the guide/educator. While the tone was somber, the significance of the history left a deep impression on all of us.
To balance out all their hard work, the teens were treated to an incredible performance of magic by world renowned Magician Doug Conn, a trip to the French Quarter for a visit to the world-famous Preservation Hall for a live jazz concert, a mule and buggy ride tour around the French Quarter area, and of course, the teens favorite, a guided swamp tour where we saw alligators, and other swamp animals. The teens where even able to hold a baby alligator.
A major highlight of the mission was spending Shabbat at the historic Anshe S’fard Synagogue. Shabbat was filled with delicious food and inspiration. Rabbi Katz spoke of the history of the synagogue and the city and challenged the students to dig deeper into understanding and connecting to their own Jewish identity throughout the day. Services were full of song and dance and meals comprised delicious food and deep meaningful discussion. Shabbat day brought more of the same and concluded with JSU’s trademark musical Havdalah program. Prior to their return home, the teens Of course no trip to N’awlins” would be complete without a visit to Café Demond for its famous kosher beignets.
JSU will be returning to New Orleans over President’s Day Weekend (2024) for this coming year’s Relief Mission. Joining us will be Memphis JSUers. Limited spots are available and it will sell out. To learn more about this opportunity or to RSVP, please contact email@example.com