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The Jewish community of Louisiana is one of the oldest in the U.S. Under Roman Catholic rule in the 18th century, the state allowed no religion except Catholicism, yet Jewish life started as early as 1719. In 1828, the first synagogue, Shaaray Chesed, was built in the capital, New Orleans, home to several historical synagogues. During the Civil War, Jews from the state served in the Confederate Army. Three Louisiana Jews served in the U.S. Senate in the 19th century: Judah Benjamin, Michael Hahn (also governor), and Benjamin Jonas. Today, of Louisiana’s 16,000 Jews, 13,000 live in New Orleans, 1,500 in Baton Rouge, and fewer than 1,000 in Shreveport.

In 2006, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the Jewish community of New Orleans, joined by Jewish volunteers from Baltimore, Montomery County, Maryland and others, launched an extensive Mitzvah Project to help hurricane victims.

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