Monday, August 15, 2011

An unforgettable experience in Alabama: Closing thoughts from our Social Action organizer

Lorrie Wexler is a member of Congregation B'nai Israel and serves on our board.  Active on our Social Action Committee, Lorrie was responsible for all coordination of our service trip to Alabama, corresponding with Bob Gross, our wonderful point person at Temple Emanu-el in Birmingham, booking our flights, and bringing us all together.  We leave the final words on our week's experiences to her.

When Rabbi Gurevitz asked me to write the last piece for the blog, I immediately felt a sense of pride.
To think this all began with an email sent to Rabbi Prosnit from Rabbi Miller from Temple Emanu-el in Birmingham, Alabama asking for help with the tornado relief. Three months later we had 12 remarkable people volunteer to help a community in need, just because.

We arrived in historical Birmingham on Monday and by Tuesday afternoon we were in a town called Cordova diving into the work that needed to be done. Cordova became our community that week and we became theirs. Just by being there gave the people who had lost everything a feeling of hope. It was an eye opener for us to learn about their faith, their way of life and delicious culinary delights like vegetable goulash, fried green tomatoes and fried okra.

The church in Cordova was a central location for volunteers to find tools to rebuild homes, eat lunch and dinner, choose furniture and every household item imaginable. These were all donated items.
Suzanne Phillip, George Markley, Lorrie Wexler and Elaine Chetrit outside house no. 1
One afternoon we were fortunate to have the family whose house we were working on stop by. The look on their faces was pure joy.

They never imagined that this house could even be salvaged, let alone turned into this wonderful home that would enable them the opportunity to rebuild their lives. Through our hard work we turned their house into something that was warm and inviting. We schlepped furniture, primed walls, planted trees, put a brick walkway in, hung shutters and stocked their kitchen.
Rabbi Gurevitz, Ari Matz, Emma Pearlstone and Brittany O'Connell
outside House no. 2
The social action committee would like to thank Margo Schiff, Lisa Knicos, George Markley, Suzanne Phillip, Steven Soberman, Andrew Soberman, Elaine Chetrit, Brittany O’Connell, Ari Matz, Emma Pearlstone and Rabbi Rachel Gurevitz.
Andrew having way too much fun on a tractor

This wonderful group of people volunteered their time and their own money to make this happen.
We worked hard together, sweated together, laughed together and cried together.
What a truly gifted community of people to share the week with.
Lorrie Wexler

Below is some video footage that shows the devastation caused by the tornado in Cordova in the immediate aftermath - while most of the debris had been cleared by the time we arrived, the scale of the destruction gives some sense of what it means to rebuild this community:

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