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August 27, 2015 | 12th Elul 5775
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Response to Hurricane Katrina: A Jewish Approach

A framework for teachers and parents to acknowledge and address the devastation of hurricane Katrina in a Jewish context.


"Religion," teaches Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, "is an answer to man's ultimate questions," (God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism), but there are times when the answers are not so obvious, if they can be found at all. The magnitude of the natural and national disaster unleashed by hurricane Katrina is clearly beyond the comprehension of a person of any age. As humbled as we are by the power of the hurricane and the scope and depth of national healing that we face, our tradition teaches us to seek constructive responses through study, prayer, and deeds of loving-kindness, to even the greatest of catastrophes. "Our prayers become meaningful," writes Rabbi Sidney Greenberg, "when we do everything we can to make them come true."1

This Disaster Response Packet2 contains the following materials to help our communities, our students and our families through this difficult time:

  1. A Jewish textual approach to confronting issues raised by natural disaster, written by Rabbi Jan Katzew, Director, URJ Department of Lifelong Jewish Learning.
  2. A methodology for helping children express fears and concerns and redirect their attention.
  3. Suggested activities for children to assist in the healing process.
  4. A listing of specific resources that is available for support and guidance in this process.
  5. A relevant issue of Family Shabbat Table Talk for Parashat Noach
Especially recommended resources for older children and adults include Rabbi Eric Yoffie's communication about the Union's relief efforts, a prayer written by Rabbi Sue Ann Wasserman, and the September 2nd issue of 10 Minutes of Torah. In addition, important resources for teachers and parents are available at these web sites:

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