At Central Synagogue

Reflections on Trip to New Orleans

Posted April 17, 2018

Last weekend, 32 8th and 9th-grade students traveled down south to New Orleans for a social justice trip. The trip started with the group sitting in the exact spot where Hurricane Katrina broke the levees that protected the Lower Ninth Ward. As students observed the still visible destruction, they discussed the notions of inequality and access, especially regarding food. To help do something about the lack of access to fresh vegetables in the Lower Ninth, the group spent the afternoon volunteering at a local community garden. Students then had the opportunity to learn about Jewish life in New Orleans by visiting Hillel at Tulane University and spending Shabbat at Touro Synagogue. The next morning, students engaged in a workshop taught by Overcoming Racism about their role in ending racial injustice in America. Following that, the group spent the rest of the day learning about the culture of New Orleans by exploring the French Quarter. Lastly, the trip went to Sunday worship at a church in the spirit of interfaith harmony. Read below to see what students thought of the trip.

Student Reflections

A new experience I had today was seeing the devastation that was a result of Hurricane Katrina. I thought that I had seen a lot of homeless people on the street asking for money in New York City, but seeing how common it is here was really difficult. Also, seeing the general state of living in the Lower Ninth Ward gave me a new perspective of just how privileged we are. Seeing and hearing the differences between the Lower Ninth Ward and Uptown New Orleans really showed how large the economic gap is. In Uptown, many of the houses seemed as large as churches while those in the Lower Ninth Ward were much smaller and falling apart. Hearing about the differences in treatments from the government also was eye-opening. Billy’s words about choosing who you were born to were very influential and true.These experiences gave me a new perspective on the world, coming from the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Sometimes we get caught in our bubble, most people are extremely privileged and those who are not as well off are much better off than those here. However, I found that people here, despite their economic struggles are much kinder and much more willing to communicate than those back home. Down here I felt friendliness that I have never felt before. I felt comfortable interacting with others, and I really liked it. It wasn’t about who has the biggest house but about who is the most willing and kind. This made me wonder if New Orleans was like this before Katrina, and if so, why? If this was caused by Katrina, why did it happen to New Orleans rather than every other place that has experienced a devastating hurricane?
- Rachel B.

As our bus stopped and Billy told us we were at our first stop, I asked myself, “Is this really it?” While visiting the Lower Ninth Ward may not be a popular tourist destination, this stop was a very meaningful one. It gave me a new perspective on the large access gap that dramatically affects the neighborhood. Not only does the government ignore the physical space, due to something that the community had no control over, but their needs and health are completely overlooked as the government focused, and still focuses, on the wealthier neighborhoods. Are the lives of the people in the Lower Ninth Ward really valued less than those of wealthier citizens?
- Ellery B.C.

Visiting Tulane University gave me a new perspective. When I was at Hillel, I realized that Judaism is important to colleges. Being a Jew in New York City, I don’t see a lot of temples, but it just takes one visit to another state and a visit to a college campus or temples in order to notice a whole new world. Touring Hillel today made me realize how important Judaism is to people or a university. When I go to college, I want to carry my Judaism with me and Tulane University has many opportunities for me to continue my Judaism.
- Julie S.

Click here to read more student reflections.