Sunday, January 22, 2006
Last week, I had the pleasure of speaking with my good friend, Malkie Rivkin, who lives down in New Orleans. The victims of Hurrican Katrina have been nearly forgotten by most people as time has worn on and new issues have taken their place in our minds. Sadly, their difficulties are far from over. Malkie returned from Houston a while ago but her house is not yet in livable condition. Half of her belongings (what is left of the originals and things she had to buy due to damage) remains in Houston because there simply is nowhere to put them. She has been living with her in-laws since returning to New Orleans. (Interesting note: Dovid checked out an episode of Family Feud during his stint at the hospital last week. One question was how many days takes to get sick of your in-laws when they come to visit. Number one answer? Survey says: 1!) The destruction all around is unimaginable. She related how students that came to volunteer kept repeating that they never imagined how bad it really was. Most people are living out in trailers on their front lawns. Need a plumber or electrician to do repairs in your home? Expect a wait of several months. Stores shut down early in the evening due to a shortage of personnel. The day school, Torah Academy, of which Malkie is the principal, decided to open its doors to service the children of families that had returned to the city. Only half of the student body is present and tuition is not being paid for the most part. Expenses are overwhelming as there were many repairs that had to be made. Cleaning the premises, retiling, and painting were basics that had to be done in order to make the building usable. They're working with barebone materials. I was saddened to hear that when Malkie called Jewish publishing houses to order books and asked for a discount in light of the school's unique situation, they were offered "a dollar off the regular price". The thought of repaying the debts the school is incurring is staggering. As I listened to her and heard the weariness behind her cheerful front, I didn't know what to say. It is true, isn't it? They've been forgotten. The same way Gush Katif evacuees have been forgotten, even as some of them are still living out of suitcases in hotels, awaiting keys to trailers in trailer parks that are to replace their beautiful homes of yore that were reduced to rubble. Heartbreaking. Truly.