Jewish Community of Biloxi, MS (Where Amherst's HH Rabbi Works)

I imagine that many of you, like me, have been riveted to your televisions and newspapers over the last many days heartbroken by the terrible devastation in New Orleans and other parts of the Gulf Coast. As some of you may know, I recently accepted a position as student rabbi at Congregation Beth Israel in Biloxi, MS, and after days of disrupted phone and email service have finally been able to be in touch with the community there.

While the full condition of the synagogue building is not yet known, the synagogue president has heard from local reporters that there is substantial roof and structural damage. Arrangements had been made to take the shul's Torahs to Alabama before the storm, but there is not yet confirmation that this was successful. Flood insurance is virtually non-existent in flood zones like Biloxi and most of the synagogue's rebuilding expenses will not be reimbursed.

In addition to damages to the Beth Israel building, several congregants have homes that are either destroyed or severely damaged and unlivable. Again, the full extent of the community's loss is not yet known as most residents are still outside of the area and under directive of the state government not to return for fear of dysentery and infection.

For those individuals and/or communities that are looking for ways to be of help, the congregation has asked for donations to be made to the Congregation Beth Israel Building Fund and sent to either one of the following addresses:

Congregation Beth Israel
PO Box 7156
Gulfport, MS 39506

Congregation Beth Israel
c/o Annie Tucker
210 West 103rd Street, 3B
NY, NY 10025

Money from this fund will be used both for synagogue rebuilding as well as for the financial support of the congregation's member families.
Thanks in advance for your support and please feel free to be in touch if you have further questions.

All the best,


elliot said...


The first Jews I ever met in Mississippi were hauling wet carpet out of Steve's house on Monday September 12, 2005. Steve Richter is President of Congregation Beth Israel of Biloxi and Director of Tourism of Harrison County Mississippi. These guys from Crown Heights also got Steve's flooded car started.. I have passed through Mississippi many times over the years, both Marcia and I have gotten speeding tickets in Mississippi, but we had never seen a Jew in Mississippi. Unfortunately, as each day passes there are fewer Jews in Mississippi.

My name is Elliot Alterman. I am a native Atlanta Cracker. My wife and I are founding members of Congregation Ariel. My wife, son, daughter and daughter-in-law all teach in Jewish Day Schools. My wife, son and daughter are all graduates of the Greenfield Hebrew Academy. My wife and daughter were the first and only parent/child teachers at the academy who are both graduates. My family is committed to Yiddishkite and I felt a desire to do something to restore the Yiddishkite Katrina destroyed.

On Saturday morning, September 10, 2005, an announcement was made at Congregation Ariel to donate diapers, baby food, baby formula, toys, clothes, etc. A long time prominent member joked if we wanted new diapers. This picture, taken Sunday Night, shows there was no room for anything else. Congregation Ariel has around 100 families. Yasher Koach to my shul and my friends.

This wrecked car was as close to Beth Israel as I could get. The remains of the shul is just two blocks away. Who knows, the car may have passed/hit the shul as the storm surge raced. Notice the missing roof and the deployed air bag out the driver’s window… kind a scary.

Given what you have heard on TV and read in the papers, even with flood insurance, the settlement with the insurance companies will not replace the damage to Beth Israel of Biloxi. I met Steve for the first time on Monday, September 12 and I feel a need to help him rebuild his shul. If you are able, please send a check payable to Beth Israel Congregation of Biloxi Building Fund. Send it in care of Mr. Richard Klein, Southeastern Regional Director, UJC Network (www.ujc.org) 5033 Carillon Way Charlotte, NC 28270. Thank you in advance for your kind consideration. If each of you sends a small check and forwards the invitation to view this album to everyone you know, the total of checks sent could make a marked difference. While this is the story of my trip and Steve's anguish, I saw thousands of volunteers in Biloxi and Gulfport along with tens of thousands of people just like Steve. I didn't go to New Orleans where there are seven shuls in equal need (I didn't go to alot of places). Those shuls were also supported by members suffering severe physical, mental, as well as financial stresses. Those shuls need to be rebuilt too. Go to www.ujc.com for more information on how you can be of greater help. All you have to do is point and click. TRY IT YOU'LL LIKE IT.

send me an email and I'll invite you to see the pictures I took on my visit to the Biloxi/gulfport area. elliotalterman@yahoo.com

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