Jewish Journal


July 20, 2007

Aliyah to New Orleans


I bet there was a time when people would say, “You couldn’t pay me enough to move to California.” Actually, New Yorkers still say it. But now the Jewish community of New Orleans, down about 30 percent, to 7,000, since Hurricane Katrina, has cribbed one from Israel’s playbook and is offering money to members of the Tribe who want to make aliyah to the Crescent City.

“DO you have a pioneering spirit?” read the recent ad in the Jewish Week newspaper of New York. “Are you searching for a meaningful community where YOU can make a difference?”

To generations of American Jews, the pitch had a familiar ring. But this was not an invitation to settle the Promised Land. It was a call to repopulate New Orleans, a city known less for its Jewish culture than for its shellfish, sin and pre-Lenten carnival. ...

So far, Jewish leaders acknowledge that they have attracted only a few newcomers, such as Hal Karp, a former magazine writer from Dallas who is moving here to teach in the public schools.

Karp, 43, said he was “ready to fix the … world down there.” After some financial problems, however, he almost bailed out on his move — until he received an e-mail from the Jewish Federation. In addition to the money, they offered to pair him with a Jewish “host family” who would help him get to know the city.

“It was really like someone sending you a life raft,” he said. “It was like they were saying, ‘We need Jews, and if you will come, we’ll welcome you.’ “

Ynetnews reported that money for the program included a $100,000 grant from The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, but the Fed’s spokeswoman said that wasn’t true.

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