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August 28, 2015 | 13th Elul 5775

URJ Henry S. Jacobs Camp Opens its Doors to Evacuees

J.C. Cohen, director of the Union's camp in Utica, MS, filed these reports during the storm.

Gustav at JacobsAs Gustav makes its trek inland, I hope everyone of Jacobs’ friends in Louisiana is safe and sound.  I wanted to give you a quick update on the last few days at Jacobs Camp.

Aug. 31, 2008:

Thanks to the IT Department vigilance, we got full internet up and running late this morning.  So, a quick report from the field.

The NFTY-Southern event ended at 1:00 PM and we sent everyone on their way.  We’re expecting Memphis and Pensacola to have slower-than-normal trips home because they will hit evacuation traffic, but it shouldn’t be too bad.

We believe we have about 150 or so people on-site right now – and at least 50 assorted pets!  We know of 20 or so people who are definitely en route; there may be others as the night progresses.  (BTW, last night, we staffed the office all night, and did have folks coming in at all hours.)  Folks are generally in good spirits, happy to be some place, to be off the road, etc.  When we start getting the weather effects, which looks to the mood may shift a bit.  You can tell the fear and anxiety is there, but, for now, all’s calm. 

Besides my wife who is here, we have two New Orleans educators – Eileen Hamilton from Touro, and Phil Gaethe from Gates of Prayer – and will soon have Cantor Joel Colman from Sinai.  (Bob Loewy left for Waco, TX, a couple of hours ago).  We also have a range of great professionals – a social worker from JFS, one psychiatrist and one grief counselor, and more.

An aside: We have a number of folks who arrived today who were with us during Katrina.  THIS is their evacuation destination, which is, I guess, very nice.  (We offered a couple of them the chance to go to Jackson, and they said they preferred to be here.)

Forecasters are saying we won’t see any of the outer-band-rain here until early tomorrow morning.  The breeze will likely pick up as the evening progresses.

From latest models, looks like the storm is going to hit the mid-Louisiana coast and move east – which means New Orleans will get some high winds, and a dumping of rain.  Again, too early to tell.

That’s the latest update.  I’ll report in later tonight or tomorrow morning with more detail.

Sept. 1, 2008: As Gustav makes its trek inland, I hope everyone of Jacobs’ friends in Louisiana is safe and sound.  I wanted to give you a quick update on the last few days at Jacobs Camp.By all reports, it looks like New Orleans caught a break, which was certainly a relief to most of the folks here. 

We do have a couple of folks from Houma, LA, which got the direct hit; they have less information than others, but don’t seem too concerned, which is also good.  Depending on what the Mayor of New Orleans says, and assuming nothing catastrophic happens overnight, I presume most folks will clear out of here over the course of the day tomorrow.  We may have a few here until Wednesday.

The entire Jacobs Camp operations staff – Emma, Gloria, Johnny & Floyd – worked full days all weekend; they knew what had to be done, and did it.  We had several additional kitchen staffers who put in extra hours to help out as well.  And, Ken Schipper, our facility management consultant came yesterday when I asked, to work with Johnny & Floyd to scout out and fix any potentially hazardous situations that strong winds could have caused.

From the start, I put Scott in charge of housing, which was a very challenging task given how fluid the situation was, and how we just took people as they came; he did a great job.  Even while fulfilling his duties as the NFTY-Southern regional advisor, Abram was a great help as well – and was certainly pleased that this was nothing like his Katrina experience, which happened just three weeks into his tenure as assistant director.

And, as for me, well, with the level of craziness it felt like another day of the summer!  I am glad Valerie and the kids came here, it was nice to get to have them around, even though I was running around.  You know, we have the beds, and we have a strong relationship to the community.  We might as well put them to use, and help out some folks in the process.  I know the New Orleans Jewish community is appreciative; I know our camp community is supportive.   And, I hope we never have to do it again.

Happy Labor Day.

Jonathan "J.C." Cohen, MAJCS/MSW
Director, URJ Henry S. Jacobs Camp
Utica, Mississippi 39175
601.885.6042  /  601.885.6269 fax  /

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