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Community leader Jackie Gothard, 83, passes away

JACKIE PRESSNER GOTHARD, the former president of Congregation Beth Israel, who was acknowledged as the person most responsible for saving the flood-damaged Orthodox congregation following the flooding associated with Hurricane Katrina, died as a result of heart failure following emergency surgery yesterday, May 21, 2018. She was 83.


A proud native of New Orleans, Jackie grew up above the family business, Pressner’s Kosher Delicatessen, where they and their friends were frequent visitors to the famous pickle barrel. Jackie attended Fortier High School where she played first chair violin in the school orchestra, as well as second chair in the All-State Orchestra. While in high school she was on a synchronized swimming team coached by renowned swim coach Roy Brenner. She also excelled in various sports including volleyball, softball and basketball.

After graduating at the age of 16, Jackie attended Sophie Newcomb College, graduating second in her class with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology. She drove a Chevy convertible with her father to Cleveland, Ohio, to attend the Western Reserve University Graduate School of Social Work, where she earned a master’s degree in Social Work. It was there she met fellow MSW graduate student Sol Gothard, who became enamored of her after she made a perfect half-court shot on the basketball court.

Upon graduation, the two came to New Orleans where they were married at Congregation Beth Israel Synagogue on Carondelet Street. Jackie worked as a social worker for Child Protective Services at the New Orleans Department of Welfare for several years. Later she was an active travel agent, specializing in trips to Israel. She was devoted to many volunteer organizations, including Hadassah, Jewish Family Services (where she was active in the Teen Life Counts suicide prevention program), Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans, and the Ben Katz Post of the Jewish War Veterans of America.

Her passion was Congregation Beth Israel, where she served as its first female president. Her term coincided in 2004 with the centennial anniversary of the synagogue, and the following year, its devastation in Hurricane Katrina. She was the moving force – the inspiration – for the rebuilding of Beth Israel in its new home, alongside Congregation Gates of Prayer in Metairie.

Honored as a People’s Health Champion in 2007, she was singled out at a New Orleans Saints game, for her work and success in rebuilding Congregation Beth Israel. Jackie and her husband loved to travel. Among their many trips were several that including hiking in various U.S. National Parks, salmon fishing in Alaska, walking the Great Wall of China, visiting the Inns of Court in London, and especially hiking the Blue Ridge Mountains near Asheville, North Carolina and listening to bluegrass music, which they especially loved.

She visited Israel over two dozen times. Her love of travel, Israel, and working with the youth community culminated in her leading six-week-long summer youth trips to Israel from 1980 – 1986. When her husband ran for political office as a judge, her husband relied upon her to be his strength and support. 

By far, however, her proudest accomplishments – far exceeding those of her many professional and personal achievements – were those of her children and grandchildren, who have all excelled in their own professional successes and a love of Judaism and their dedication to a variety of cultural, environmental, civic, and charitable causes.

She is survived by her husband of 60 years, Judge Sol Gothard, her five children – Yaacov, Eddie (Blayne), Andy (Julie), Sander (Julie) Gothard and Shayna Gothard Kaufmann (Eric); a sister Freida Posnock (Leonard), 11 grandchildren and one great-grandson.

 In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions are suggested to Congregation Beth Israel, 4004 West Esplanade Avenue in Metairie. Relatives and friends attended services at Beth Israel on Thursday morning, May 24, 2018 at 11:00 a.m. Burial followed in (Old) Beth Israel Cemetery, 4321 Frenchmen Street. Services were officiated by Rabbi Gabriel Greenberg with the assistance of Rabbi David Posternock. Tharp-Sontheimer-Tharp Funeral Home of Metairie was in charge of arrangements. 

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