Grateful Louisiana Resident Gives Account of B'nai B'rith "Mucking" His Home After August 2016 Flooding
B'nai B'rith International has been busy in Baton Rouge, La., continuing to help with the clean-up from this summer’s flooding that devastated the area.
Disaster Relief Committee Chair Harold Steinberg and his wife Margie have made several trips to Baton Rouge to gut houses, tearing them down to the studs so they can be rebuilt.
Harold, Margie and their son, Eric, recently represented B’nai B’rith among a group of volunteers from Corporation for National and Community Service (AmeriCorps) and NECHAMA Jewish Response to Disaster gutting homes in Denham Springs.
What follows is a first person account from a grateful resident in Denham Springs, detailing the work of B'nai B'rith, AmeriCoprs and NECHAMA in the cleaning of his home.
During the flood of August 2016 in South Louisiana, my house in Denham Springs was devastated. For weeks following the flood, my daughter and I cleared out from the house as much debris as we could, but there was still furniture and two refrigerators that we could not move. I contacted an organization for help and was waiting to hear from them, but they were overwhelmed.
On Monday, October 24 I talked to a friend, Cathy Newman, on social media and mentioned that I was still trying to get help clearing out and gutting my house. I found out Cathy is a volunteer with NECHAMA, an organization I had not heard of, so she offered to turn in my information to see if they would be able to help. NECHAMA was in their last week of deployment in my area. The same day I received a call from Meghen with NECHAMA and she and another volunteer came to my house to assess the damage. I remember their positive attitude and the statement they made to me, "We can do this." It was the best news I had heard in a long time. On Friday, October 28 Meghan called me and said she had a team ready to come to my house.
Supported by a team of AmeriCorps volunteers, they began clearing my house. The volunteers faced some challenges in my house, but they worked with determination and teamwork. We thought we had retrieved all items from the house which could be salvaged, but the volunteers actually found a few more items which had not been damaged and set them to the side. By the end of the day on Saturday, my house was cleared and gutted including walls, ceilings, and floors. The volunteers who came to my house worked harder than many paid workers do. They were organized, efficient, courteous, and compassionate. My house was taken care of by a group of fantastic people.
This week we were honored to hold a rededication for the Memorial to the Six Million that is located in the New York office of B’nai B’rith. It was originally dedicated 40 years ago, on November 10, 1976 by a Holocaust committee in New York comprised of representatives of three survivor groups: Leo Baeck Lodge and Chapter; Joseph Popper Lodge and Chapter; and the Liberty Lodge and Chapter.
The memorial is made of oak with the Hebrew words, Zahor (remember), and the first lines of the Mourner’s Kaddish (Yitgadal v'yit kadash sh'mei raba) engraved.
We chose Nov. 1 as the date of the rededication to recognize the anniversary of Kristallnacht (“the Night of Broken Glass”). A candle lighting ceremony was included to remember the 91 Jews who were murdered on that night, 78 years ago, and the 30,000 more who were arrested and sent to concentration camps where hundreds of them died. This gathering was the commitment of one generation to continue to support future generations with an allocation of funds for educational programming for young leadership. The rededication gift was made by the Lissner and Friedman families on behalf of the Leo Baeck Unit, which now also include the members of the Popper and Liberty lodges and chapters.
In B’nai B’rith, programs in observance of Kristallnacht, are held throughout the world, especially those coordinated by B’nai B’rith in Latin America. In 2012, it was hosted by Pope Francis, who was still a cardinal at the time, at the Cathedral in Buenos Aires.
In 2015, the attendees at the B’nai B’rith Policy Conference in Washington, D.C. participated in a commemoration ceremony in remembrance of Kristallnacht. After comments by B’nai B’rith leaders about their personal family experiences and the Holocaust, we shared an audio tape that featured the Children’s Choir of the synagogue of Worms, located in Worms, Germany. On the 50th anniversary of Kristallnacht—the Memorial Committee of Jewish Victims of Nazism from Worms decided to reunite the members of the children’s choir in New York led by Cantor Kurt Wimer. Cantor Wimer was the cantor of the synagogue in Worms from 1933 until the synagogue was destroyed on the night of November 9, 1938. This tape was presented to B’nai B’rith in 1988 after that anniversary event, by a member of B’nai B’rith who was also in the choir to be added to our collection of Shoah awareness programming. The choir sang melodies of the Friday evening synagogue service they had sung as children and described their remembrances of Worms, and the events of Kristallnacht. They dedicated the tape to their families and the other children who were murdered during the Shoah. They knew they were leaving a legacy of memories behind, and a lesson for the world as the tape was also presented to the city of Worms for their archives.
Our candle lighting ceremonies and programming events exist to not just remember the victims of the Holocaust, but to also honor the survivors— eye witnesses who have shared the horror of their experiences with us to remind us to never forget. They rebuilt lives and communities determined to create a future for their children and grandchildren. We depend on future generations and the dedicated members of B’nai B’rith who bring community programming for Holocaust education and awareness to never forget. Educational and cultural programs held throughout the year, help us remember and honor the heritage of the Jewish people lost in the Holocaust and B’nai B’rith’s loss of 175 lodges in Europe.
At this time when our world sees rising anti-Semitism and attacks against Israel, we must remember that there was no Israel at the time of the Shoah. We need to credit the survivors of the Holocaust who helped build the Jewish homeland and their descendants that protect and defend Israel.
I have been fortunate to get to know many people while working for B’nai B’rith. It is a people organization, and I am especially grateful for the connection to the survivors and their families who have made B’nai B’rith a part of their lives. We have much to learn from them and their families. I recall one survivor, sharing what they do when they address students at high school programs. The survivor asks each student to hold her hand, so the students remember that they touched the hand of a Holocaust survivor. She tells the students that there will come a time that they will not be on this earth, and that the students must tell others that they touched a survivor who was real—that they heard and saw this eyewitness to the Holocaust.
Thank you to the Friedman, Lissner and members of the Leo Baeck Unit and all of the survivors and their families who are part of our B’nai B’rith family for touching our lives and making sure we remember.
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