Even as we are shocked by some of the terrible acts going on in New Orleans, we must remember to acknowledge those who are going out of their way to do good deeds and to help those in trouble. By this I mean not only the people on the ground -- the police who stuck around to do a difficult job in unbearable circumstances, while others deserted, for example -- but those who are going out of their way to help those who have been evacuated to other cities.
In shul this morning (in London), someone told the story of their brother and his four kids, who live in New Orleans. Originally they planned to weather the storm at home, but as the water levels began to rise to their door, they managed to hitch a ride out of town with a truck driver. They somehow ended up in Chicago, where apparently (he said -- can anyone confirm?), some Jewish schools have offered to take in survivors from New Orleans and give them a free education. In the event, these particular children will be sent back to the UK -- where Rosh Pinah, a private Jewish primary school that was already full, has offered them places, no questions asked. Israeli universities are also offering, through the MASA programme, special places for students whose studies have been suspended as a result of the hurricane (although this is slightly different as this programme is actively trying to attract more American-Jewish students anyway).
Getting families out of New Orleans is just the beginning. Where are they going to live? Where are they going to work? How are they going to earn money? Where are their kids going to study? How are their parents going to pay for their education? How can people rebuild their lives from nothing?
The real test of helping these people is going to come over the next few months and years, and it's good to see that many people, including members of the Jewish community far and wide, are already beginning to think of long-term ways to help.