Activists Team Up on New Orleans Mission

By Nathan Guttman

Published June 19, 2008, issue of June 27, 2008.

Activists from the Jewish and African American communities joined forces June 15 in a four-day mission to New Orleans with the aim of taking a new look on issues of race, poverty and change in America. Organizers with the Jewish Council for Public Affairs paired lo-cal leaders from both communities in four cities to lend help to Gulf Coast residents and to build a framework for future efforts against poverty.

On June 17, mission participants helped rebuild two homes hit by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The visiting community activists cleaned up an attic that had not been treated since the storm hit. They also painted a house damaged by Katrina.

Celeste Carey, an African American activist from Portland, Ore., who works in the city’s neighborhood-involvement department, added that the mission taught her to “forge new avenues of collaboration” in order to help communities and individuals in need.

Mission participant Hadar Susskind, director of the JCPA’s Washington office, said that special emphasis was put on ensuring that Jew-ish and African American participants continue their cooperation on issues of poverty after they return to their communities.

“This was not a sightseeing tour,” he said. “We want to use this as a lens to examine problems of poverty all over.”

A similar message was delivered June 12 on Capitol Hill by the JCPA’s executive director, Rabbi Steve Gutow, who presented his views on faith and poverty to two congressional panels dealing with the issue of hunger.

“I believe our faith does not permit us not to deal with this problem,” Gutow said. “The main focus of faith is to take care of people, and this message sometimes gets lost.”

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