Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech Ha’olam, hagomel li-chayavim tovot shegamalni kol tov.
Blessed are You, Eternal, our God, King of the universe who bestows goodness upon the accountable, who has bestowed every goodness upon me.
Mi shegamalech tov, Hu yig’malech kol tov, selah.
The One who has bestowed goodness upon you, may God bestow every goodness upon you forever.
After a week in which natural disasters have wreaked havoc on our nation, many of us turn to our religious communities for recovery, whether to receive services or to volunteer our time to help others in our community. As the weeks progress and other news stories take over our TV airtime (there’s supposedly an election coming up pretty soon?), it can be easy to forget the crucial role our synagogues played this week. Although we continue to heal, we look towards the future and how to better prepare for emergencies, focusing especially on the most vulnerable among us.
As the White House noted in March of last year, “for years the needs of people with disabilities were more of an afterthought during disasters. Not enough was done to make sure that shelters planned for the access and functional needs of individuals who might require wheelchairs to be replaced or beds at a certain height if it was necessary to evacuate during a disaster. Residents who were blind or deaf, and those with intellectual disabilities didn’t have access to critical information about evacuation routes or other warnings. And in some cases, accessible transportation for people with disabilities just wasn’t factored into planning at all.” Accommodating the needs of people with disabilities during disasters allows the community to focus its limited resources on the people who need them the most.
Another of the most vulnerable groups in natural disasters are the poor. The intersection of the difficulties that come with extreme weather and the daily hardships that are already present in their lives only makes those living in poverty more vulnerable. Not only are they more likely to live in substandard housing and in more environmentally vulnerable areas, but they are more likely to already have worse physical health. In addition, they are less likely to have extra resources—like food, fuel, and water—in the event of a disaster.
We are all affected in some way by these disasters and emergencies. (Between 1980 and 2000, 75% of the world’s population lived in areas affected by them.) As we move forward we must not forget those in our communities with less resources, less access, and more barriers than ourselves.
Fortunately, there are a variety of resources available to help us prepare for the future. Please take advantage of all of these guides and checklists, from those directed at individual responses to plans specific to synagogues and faith communities.
And, as a reminder, we have activated our Hurricane Relief Fund to provide assistance to communities affected by Hurricane Sandy. Together, we can provide hope and help to those in need.
Photo by Rabbi Hara Person