From the Alameda Times-Star:

Fremont rabbi heads to The City That Care Forgot

By Todd R. Brown, STAFF WRITER
Article Created: 03/30/2008 02:41:26 AM PDT

FREMONT – Rabbi Avi Schulman has not been to New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina, but he did help evacuees in Texas in the aftermath of that more-than-natural disaster.

On April 6, the leader of Fremont’s Temple Beth Torah finally will revisit the Crescent City, this time swinging a hammer to help rebuild a home in the still-stricken community.

He and a couple of dozen others will head to the city for about a week as an Adult Mitzvah Corps (a mitzvah is a good work). They plan to learn about New Orleans from local residents, tour the devastation and work with Rebuilding Together New Orleans, which has completed about 70 houses since Katrina.

“I do know of people who stayed with members of my congregation,” Schulman recalled from his time as a rabbi in a Houston suburb. “People literally opened their doors. The trauma of relocation was so severe, people really reached out.”

The 53-year-old last visited The City That Care – and the government – Forgot about five years ago with his son, now 18. Schulman said he enjoyed the vibrant street culture that gives the city its fabled reputation.

“It has a lively Southern atmosphere,” he said. “Even if you’re having coffee and beignets at Cafe Du Monde and hearing musicians passing by, it’s a pretty enthralling experience.”

About 100,000 former metro New Orleans residents still live in Texas. When the storm struck in 2005, the city had a Jewish community of about 10,000. Estimates last year put the figure at just 7,000.

That prompted local leaders to make a generous moving reimbursement offer, according to the Los Angeles Times, with the hope of luring 1,000 Jews back in the next several years.

Schulman, who became rabbi of Fremont’s synagogue in July, said he is eager to find out how many have returned, including fellow Reform Jews, who belong to a liberal, nonorthodox movement in Judaism.

He plans to share what he learns at an evening Shabbat service April 18 at Temple Beth Torah, 42000 Paseo Padre Parkway.

“I have felt some remorse that I have not seen for myself what happened,” he wrote in a recent congregation bulletin on the trip. “I am really looking forward to using my hands to help rebuild a part of our country sorely in need of repair.”

On the Web: Adult Mitzvah Corps,

Rebuilding Together New Orleans,

Temple Beth Torah,

Reach staff writer Todd R. Brown at 510-353-7004 or