Moishe House New Orleans

BOB ABERNETHY, host: Four years ago this weekend, Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast. In this neighborhood in New Orleans, Broadmoor, the houses were in 8 feet of water. Since then, thousands of young volunteers from all over the country, from many faith traditions, have gone to New Orleans to help with the clean-up and rebuilding. Many chose to move there. We talked with residents at the Jewish social service organization, Moishe House. 

JONATHAN GRABOIES: Moishe House is a national organization. It says that the mission of the houses that they have throughout the world is “tikkun olam,” which is “repairing the world.”

JEFF PRUSSECK: That ties right in to the mission here in New Orleans, taking a city that has been faced with so many challenges and trying to, on every level of infrastructure and community development, to provide more structure to it.

GILL BENEDEK: The idea of giving back to a community, whether it be Jewish or the general community at large, was a very appealing idea.

JONATHAN GRABOIES: First, coming down, it was an absolute—it was wiped out. It looked like a bomb had gone off, and coming back in the six-month intervals you could really see the progression that was slowly happening, but with that time going by you could see progress.

I met Miss Della Mae when she came into Broadmoor looking for assistance with rebuilding her home. She’s an elderly woman, wheelchair-bound, been living in a trailer on her property for the better part of three years after Hurricane Katrina. So Miss Dell was someone we were thrilled to find the resources to help her.

DELLA MAE WITHERSPOON: Oh, they did a wonderful job. They did everything. They made me a brand new house!

JONATHAN GRABOIES: We’re already practicing tikkun olam in our day-to-day lives, so in a way we’re being Jewish even without being in the synagogue. Moishe House, in a sense, is sort of that alternative venue to come in and reengage with the community.

GILL BENEDEK: The Shabbat potluck, the Friday night dinner that we do once a month, is really very much the soul of our programming.

JONATHAN GRABOIES: It’s great to see everyone. We do this every month, and we start with some traditional prayers and a brief song. They join us for dinner, and we do the blessings. It’s sort of a great opportunity for everyone to take a moment and spend time with their friends.

What I hope Moishe House brings to New Orleans is a comfortable, open community based on Jewish values, culture, religion that is accessible to everyone.

  • David Broida

    Jonathan – David Broida here – friend of your folks – congratulations on the project and the Religion and Ethics – I was on the show in the Fall of 2008 – interviewed by Lucky Sevrinsen on Jewish voters supporting different candidates/parties – I was the Obama supporter – good luck with your project – just read Zeitoun, by Dave Eggers – story set in New Orleans about Syrian-American during Katrina – good book/compelling story – d.

  • Steven Emmett McCullough

    Truly the work of a sensitive soul.

  • Jack45

    Interesting idea, but it seems that the low-rent benefit to the young people from others who are declaring tax-deductible contributions suggests that the young people are getting a very free ride… at the expense of the US taxpayer.

    Seems that the ethics of this raises the almost rhetorical question “aren’t the beneficiaries subject to tax on imputed income?”

    Any consideration, too, that this is a 501-C3 that benefits a particular religious group?

  • David

    Jack45: Actually, no US tax payer dollars are being used, not even a one cent. 501(c)3′s are absolutely allowed to be for particular religious groups, as long as they also support the general community.