This week put an emphasis on the tentative part of our tentative schedule. Because of the COVID-19 outbreak, the St Patrick’s Day Parade was canceled. But it wasn’t the end of the world (yet). Instead, we were able to spend the day as tourists: walking the streets of the French Quarter, shopping at the market, and listening to a little live music. At the end of the day, we ate dinner at Camellia Grill near Tulane University.
Before coming to New Orleans, I had never heard of Tulane. Probably because I’m not Jewish. But it became pretty obvious to me that that area is a meeting ground for Jewish people to be around others with the same beliefs and practices. As we stepped out of the diner, a group of Jewish people walked by and a member of our group made a comment about, “I love to see my people.” I asked how they could tell if someone was Jewish just by looking at them, and the main answer was that they carry a certain aura.
To be honest, at first, this made me feel excluded or at the very least different. But then I took a step back and remembered they never treated me as such. Even though I grew up practicing communion and attending Sunday school, and not celebrating Shabbat or learning Hebrew, we all had a common goal: to help those in need of help.
Looking back on the week, New Orleans will probably always need help. From racially placed infrastructures and economically segregated systems to water displacement issues and straight-up drinking problems, the city is a diverse, dirty mess. We learned about how the government ignores their cries for help, and how the water systems in place are not sustainable. But what I saw this week, was compassion from people of all backgrounds and a reason to hope for a bright future for the city of New Orleans. With open hearts, open minds, and ready hands, those who are able to help, should help so that when we ourselves are in need of help, there will be someone there. - Jenna Helme, Class of 2020