A good article online about the ordeal of the Rivkin family that stayed in New Orleans during Katrina and were one of the first people on hand to help with the clean up and aftermath.
They are old friends of mine... stayed there by them years back with my ex-husband a few times passing through New Orleans with the babies. Brings back lots of memories of a couple first starting out in a city..knowing few people with a big job to do and looking for ways to make contacts in a town very different from any that they had lived in previously.
Mrs. Rivkin is a Gordon... my ex-husband and I were very close with her family.
They are speaking at Chabad of Lomita on this... my oldest son first went away to Day Camp..the first time I ever let him out of my sight lol for "school" to Chabad of Lomita... brings back such memories.
so.. posting this article because well...it's good and personal in ways still... my daughter goes to Chabad of F.I.U. that is run by her nephew... or second cousin maybe..who knows... so hard to figure who is related to who in my world. I'm getting confused sometimes as to who my kids are related to lol... who is dating who... living where... I have a big family... a lot of friends but when I see something that says South Bay... it takes me back ...
Katrina was life altering for all who lived there...and for all of us who watched on TV.
Originally published Friday, January 27, 2006Updated Friday, January 27, 2006
"[Katrina] just showed us that no matter how powerful we think we are, it's God's world"
Armed with faith, hope and a community perspective, Chabad rabbi from New Orleans offers light in dark days of disaster.
By Kate McLaughlinDAILY BREEZE
When Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast in August, Rabbi Zelig Rivkin was forced to close Chabad New Orleans, where he serves as director, and evacuate to Houston with his wife, Bluma.
It was a trying ordeal, but Rivkin embraced it as an invaluable learning opportunity.
"If someone were to pay me millions of dollars to go through this experience, I wouldn't accept it," the rabbi said. "But if someone were to pay me a million dollars to give up the experience, I wouldn't do that either."
For Rivkin, Katrina offered an opportunity to do good by helping people in need.
It also presented a chance to put life in perspective.
"It just showed us that no matter how powerful we think we are, it's God's world. It's best if we live in consonance with nature and God's will, rather than try to fight it," he said. "I am not going to try to figure out why God does things. I am not going to assume that we're evil people or the city is bad or whatever else people have said has any validity whatsoever."
Rivkin will be sharing his story tonight at Chabad of South Bay in Lomita, where he also will present a video produced by Jewish Educational Media documenting the Chabad movement's disaster response to hurricanes Katrina and Wilma, as well as to the 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia.
Members of the 250-year-old Chabad movement, a dynamic force in the Jewish community, are known for their hospitality, intellectualism, optimism and emphasis on religious study.
Founded in Russia, Chabad-Lubavitch, the group's full name, is a branch of Hasidism and is now the largest Jewish educational outreach program in the world, dedicated to the welfare of the Jewish people worldwide.
Chabad of South Bay has a special place in Rivkin's heart. His daughter, Hinda, and her husband, Rabbi Sholom Pinson, are the program directors and organized the evening.
"The main idea behind this event," said Sholom Pinson, "is bringing out the idea of faith and hope in the face of devastation.
"When something like Katrina happens, it's natural to ask how God can do this," Pinson said.
"But something like this makes our faith stronger. Our part is to do what we can do, to rebuild and make the situation the best that it can be, leaving the rest to God."
That is exactly what Pinson's father-in-law has been doing since the hurricane struck two weeks before Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year.
"It was Saturday when we got the word about the hurricane," Rivkin recalled. "I got on the computer and saw the projected area of landfall. We immediately started debating staying or leaving."
With the holiday so close, the Rivkins stayed.
Their house and the Chabad House both made it through the storm with relatively minor wind and water damage. The tough decision came a couple of days later, after the levees broke.
"We always feel torn between the obligations to take care of ourselves or to fulfill our role as people who take care of others," Rivkin said. "But we were told that if you can leave you should leave. So we did. I have to admit, there was a lot of apprehension."
Rivkin and his family made their way to Houston, where they were received by friends.
On their first day in Houston, the rabbi and others from local and national Chabad organizations began drafting plans to help their community move forward.
In the days that followed, they rented several apartments in Houston and Memphis for people who had no place to go. They went to the Astrodome, an evacuee center, to see who needed help, and they set up a Web site as an online information clearinghouse for the Jewish community. They arranged for several hundred self-heatingkosher meals to be shipped to those in need, and they organized two search-and-rescue teams.
Although Rivkin's efforts initially focused on restoring the Jewish community, he soon broadened his efforts to include all who needed assistance.
"People heard we were doing search and rescue and we got a number of hits on the Web site," he said. "Word spread very quickly. People were asking, 'Can you go look here, can you go look there,' and so we started going to the addresses that people gave us."
The search-and-rescue teams entered the flooded Gulf city and managed to evacuate 70 people who were stuck in their homes, many of whom were sick and/or elderly. Rivkin's group also assisted storm victims who managed to get out of the city but were left with nothing.
"People sent in money and clothes and things that were needed," Rivkin said. "Trailers came in loaded with brand new things. So we rented a house with a garage and filled it with these things. We advertised in the Houston area and then people came and picked up stuff. These were people I'd never met, people from New Orleans who were evacuated."
Watching the massive outpouring of good will and togetherness made an impression on Rivkin.
"We learned about a tremendous amount of kind and generous people out there who helped in many, many ways, financially, with moral and emotional support, who exhibited a tremendous amount of caring," he said. "Seeing how people responded is a tremendous lesson for all of us, myself included."
In addition to providing material supplies, Rivkin and others also rented a hotel in Monroe, La., and hosted a community Rosh Hashana. More than 140 people came and spent the 2½-day holiday together in what Rivkin said was "one of the most positive and difficult times" that many in attendance had ever experienced.
Rivkin's efforts did not go unnoticed. In a Dec. 6 speech, President Bush commended him and Chabad for their work in the aftermath of the hurricane.
"He [Rivkin] said, 'Let's take it right to the middle of the storm area to help people,'" Bush noted. "They [Chabad] cleaned up and helped salvage homes; they provided spiritual support for those who lost loved ones. And one of those rescued from New Orleans put it this way: 'In the days after Katrina hit, Chabad saved lives.'"
Rivkin brushed off any notion of heroics.
"We just did what we could to help others," he insisted.
And though Rivkin said meeting with the president was inspirational, he prefers to focus on issues of greater significance.
"The important part we have to focus on is how we respond to the situation," he said. "Do we become selfish and self-absorbed and worry about ourselves, or do we open up to see what we can do collectively for a community?"
In the months following the disaster, Rivkin and others have maintained their focus on restoring the Jewishcommunity in and around New Orleans.
"It's not over," Rikin said. "Things are not back to normal. They're getting better, but not normal. Many people still need different kinds of help, some financial, some emotional. Some need jobs. The people of New Orleans need the country's patience and encouragement, because they're still going through it."
Rivkin said he's hopeful that people everywhere will focus their attention on helping the victims of Katrina in direct and indirect ways.
"The whole world and all the people in it are interconnected," he said. "We can strengthen each other if people, wherever they are, would commit to improving themselves and making themselves better, and dedicate that effort towards New Orleans.
"I don't mean necessarily doing anything in particular for New Orleans or the Gulf region. I mean that in their minds they're thinking we're all one big body and if part of the body strengthens itself, it's going to help all the rest.
"People have the ability to strengthen themselves, make themselves better and realize that they're not alone. And improving things in one place is going to improve people in the other place as well."
Want to go?
Presentation: Rabbi Zelig Rivkin will share his story of hope, faith and survival in the face of hurricanes Katrina and Wilma, at 8 tonight at Chabad of South Bay, 2173 Lomita Blvd., Lomita.
Find out more
Go to:www.chabad.org, the official Chabad-Lubavitch Web site; and www.chabadneworleans.com to see what Chabad New Orleans is doing to help storm victims.
posted by BobbiStorm