Myron Goldberg, president of Congregation Beth Israel in New Orleans, leads an afternoon prayer service (Mincha) on August 29, 2008 at the still devastated synagogue that was destroyed exactly three years before. (Photo Alex Barkoff)
Mayor Ray Nagin just announced the second mandatory evacuation for New Orleans this evening just before 8:00 p.m. Governor Bobby Jindal and Lt. Governor Mitch Landrieu has also urged everyone to take heed to the warnings and get out of town now. We are on the bad side of the expected track of the storm, even more so than Hurricane Katrina. The exodus out of the city has been going on all day with most every channels out of the city slogged down to a snail's pace at the edge of the city. All Home Depot, Loew's, Wal-Mart, and Sam's Club stores have closed down as of yesterday. Gas stations have shuttered their doors and most essential services are but a memory. I have resigned myself to the fact that this is a life threatening situation. Family members have all called and urged me to get out. Yet, I believe it is necessary that someone be here to document what is happening here as we prepare for the worst and hope for he best. Contraflow is due to start at 4:00 a.m. on the major arteries out of the city, which means New Orleans will have no means of entry once those plans are implemented. It's the first time that this plan of simultaneous flow both eastward and westward out of town has been implemented. This weekend, the third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina was to have featured a number of memorials to those whose lives were lost and as a way to recall what was prior to today considered the storm of the century. Thursday evening's Levees.org event had an auditorium full of people at Touro Synagogue, but that was before the dire warnings from authorities began to be issued. Friday afternoon a Mincha (afternoon) prayer service was held at the Lakeview site of Congregation Beth Israel (see above). That structure is still shuttered after three years following catastrophic destruction that resulted after the 17th Street Canal levee was breached during Hurricane Katrina. After the service was over, the members headed over to Congregation Gates of Prayer in Metairie, the site where they are now meeting to hold Shabbat services and to enjoy a meal with one another into the late hours of the night. At the same time across town at Temple Sinai, one of the oldest Reform temples in New Orleans, an interfaith prayer service hosted by Rabbi Ed Paul Cohn was held. At the event was Francis Hughes, Archbishop of the City of New Orleans; Episcopal Bishop Charles Jenkins; as well as other clergy representing Protestant, the Ba'hai and Islamic faith groups. It was an impressive night. Yet, the storm that was forming in the Caribbean was very much on people's minds. It was the elephant in the back of the room that could not be ignored.