Dallas Federation, JFS, others pitch-in for Crescent City’s Jews
By Deb Silverthorn
Little has been easy in the Big Easy since Hurricane Ida landed in New Orleans. But for Chaim and Miriam Goldfeder, owners of Kosher Palate, stepping up to help couldn’t be easier. The Goldfeders have led the charge to send at least 2,000 Rosh Hashanah meals to New Orleans with plans to send a crew to cook after the holiday and to follow up with more for Sukkot.
“We started with a request for 1,000 meals, to feed 250 people, and we’ve doubled that,” said Chaim Goldfeder, who through Hurricane Harvey, in 2017, the Texas tornadoes of 2019 and the winter storms of 2021, has become all too familiar with jumping into action for disaster relief and feeding those who are in need.
“We’ve got everything from gefilte fish and honey poblano chicken to oven-roasted glazed brisket and veggies. It’s all the sweetness of the holiday, it’s all delicious and it’s all from our hearts,” he said.
Sixteen years ago, Goldfeder sent thousands of cots, tents and other supplies to New Orleans, and didn’t blink when a call for help came in.
“We are one, the Jewish people, and we have to be able to be here for one another,” said Goldfeder who this year formed Texas Jewish Community Response, a 501c3 to support efforts in times of need.
As on past occasions, the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas and private donors from near and far have helped Goldfeder and other local kosher entities come through in disasters.
On Sunday, the Federation had pledged to match up to $5,000 raised by Goldfeder, according to Bill Finkelstein, Federation’s board chair.
“Chaim is a total mensch. This would not have happened had he not stepped up. We are blessed to have Chaim and his family in our community,” said Finkelstein.
To send the meals and supplies, Federation Chief Operating Officer Gary Wolff coordinated the use of Jewish Family Service of Dallas’ refrigerated truck and the Federation paid the JFS driver. The truck left Kosher Palate Sunday afternoon.
Students from Torah Day School of Dallas (TDSD), Mesorah High School for Girls and Texas Torah Institute helped pack boxes and load the truck. Ruthy Henkin and her Taste of the World pastry chef baked 120 cinnamon cakes to send. Also pitching in were Benny’s Bagels, Chabad of Louisiana, The Market Local Comfort Cafe, Milk and Honey Kosher Market and Grill and Simcha Kosher Catering.
“We are grateful for the tremendous help from everyone to help, however we can to make a proper yontif,” said Goldfeder. “However we’re needed, every little bit helps and we’ll continue to be here.
The plans evolved quickly on the New Orleans side, initially with Chabad of Metairie, and then with the Jewish Federation of New Orleans getting involved.
On Tuesday, nearly 100 New Orleans Jewish community leaders met online with the Jewish Federation of New Orleans Executive Director Arnie Fielkow, who spoke about his city going through another historic ‘moment.’
“At least for most, not all, the amount of flooding and damage has been minimal but there is so much going on. It is very different from what we faced 16 years ago with Katrina. We are thankful for the levy systems in place — Ida really the first test on them,” said Fielkow. “There are areas of southeast Louisiana with true devastation that will take months or years to repair, it’s going to be a long recovery, but we’re doing all we can. We’re up and running though, doing all we can.”
“We appreciate the help from Dallas, from Atlanta, Houston, Memphis and so many communities,” said Fielkow. “We got the news from [Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas Board Chair] Bill Finkelstein of the support from Kosher Palate and it means everything. It is a great blessing, and we appreciate the efforts.”
Stephan Kline of the Jewish Federations of North America and Wendy Abrams, chair of JFNA’s Emergency Committee, also reported an initial allocation of $50,000, with a plan for additional monies as needed. Yuval Derry, deputy consul general in the Houston Israel Consulate, has offered help from the State of Israel.
The Federation building in Metairie, like that of Jewish Family Service and Jewish Children’s Regional Service, is so far intact. Ellen Sager, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Baton Rouge, said the situation at her organization is being assessed. Leslie Fischman, executive director of the New Orleans JCC, reported some minor damage. The New Orleans executives said JCCs from around the country have offered open doors to their members.
While news and reported conditions change from hour to hour, the greatest issue (at press time Sunday, Sept. 5) was electricity.
JCRS serves at-risk, dependent and financially challenged Jewish children and families from Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas and Tennessee. Executive Director Mark Rubin said they have already begun to provide assistance.
“Our city is weathered but we are in action,” said Rubin. “Wherever our people have been impacted we are coordinating efforts to help. We are and will be providing financial aid to gift cards and the replacement of Judaica, books and more.”
Roselle Unger, executive director of JFS New Orleans, said her staff had evacuated to other regions during the hurricane, and are reaching out remotely to clients. Her office distributes funds from the Jewish Federation of New Orleans. “For southeast Louisiana and along the Mississippi Gulf Coast we are providing information and referrals, emergency humanitarian and long-term assistance. Our wraparound services will continue from wherever we are.”
Meanwhile, the Goldfeders continue to help their Gulf Coast neighbors make their holiday a little sweeter.
New Orleans may still be without the power of its electric grid, but the power of am echad, b’lev echad — of one people, one heart — is powerful indeed.
For more information or to make a donation to help with meals and other support visit TJCR.org, Jewish Children’s Regional Services at JCRS.org, Jewish Family Service of New Orleans at jfsneworleans.org or tinyurl.com/JFNA-hurricane-ida-relief-fund