It was recently reported in Haaretz (one of Israel’s main daily newspapers) that, in the past decade, Israelis have followed no event in the United States as closely as Hurricane Sandy. Even as we see images flood in from the news and reports from our own family and friends living in the affected areas, the true scale of it all is difficult to comprehend.
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
Kol ha-o-lam ku-lo
Gesher tzar me’od
Lo l’fa-ched, lo l’fached klal
The whole world is a very narrow bridge;
the important thing is not to be afraid
-Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav
In response to the devastating impact of Hurricane Sandy, the Union for Reform Judaism is activating its Hurricane Relief fund to collect donations for those suffering in the Hurricane’s wake.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to all those adversely impacted by Hurricane Sandy,” said URJ president Rabbi Rick Jacobs. “The magnitude of damage is difficult to comprehend, as is the work that will be necessary to even begin restoration. But we know our nation, and our community, will rise to the challenge.”
Isaac Nuell, the URJ Disaster Relief coordinator, will serve as the key point of contact. He noted, “As we have done in the past, we will work with our congregations and with local agencies to determine how to most effectively allocate the funds we receive.”
May the memories of those whose lives were lost to Hurricane Sandy remain with us for blessing.
Photo courtesy of Reuters/Lucas Jackson.
Yesterday, following weeks of fast-moving wildfires spreading across the state, Governor John Hickenlooper officially lifted the fire ban in Colorado. Extreme fires have burned throughout Colorado since late June, devastating thousands of acres of land and causing tens of thousands of people to evacuate their homes. At its height, ten major fires were burning throughout the state, marking the worst wildfire season the state has ever seen. Read more…
10 years is a long time, yet for so many of us, September 11, 2001 feels like yesterday. I know exactly where I was when the World Trade Center was hit. We held our regularly scheduled senior staff meeting at the RAC. While sitting around a table in the then-unnamed Sillins library, pagers went off with a breaking news story that smoke was billowing out of the World Trade Center – possibly because of a plane crash. All of a sudden, the office phone started ringing along with each of our cell phones, all with the same message: turn on the TV now! Within minutes, we watched the first tower fall, then the second. Reports of a plane crashing into the Pentagon were relayed and then the crashing of United Airlines flight 93. Images were replayed over and over (and over!) again… And we knew our world would never be the same…
The earthquake and hurricane that hit the East Coast over the last week have certainly wreaked havoc, although thankfully not as bad as the recent earthquake in Japan or Hurricane Katrina. But all of these natural disasters can remind us of an important issue–making sure our emergency management and response plans adequately meet the needs of people with disabilities–and provide a fitting opportunity to evaluate and improve those plans.
Let your friend’s property be as dear to you as your own.
(Pirkei Avot 2:12)
I was on my way to New Orleans for the first time, chaperoning 7 of my own teens as we prepared to meet the teens from Greensboro, North Carolina. When we landed and got to the hotel we met up with my friend and colleague Rabbi Andy Koren, the real mastermind of the adventure that was about to unfold.