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November 07, 2012

A Lesson From The Storm

Seaside Heights Hurricane Sandy NBCWhat can we learn from the massive natural disaster that ravaged New York City and New Jersey along with many other East Coast locations after Hurricane Sandy struck?


Seaside Heights Hurricane Sandy NBC

One of the new facts of life in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy is that tens of thousands of people are now reliant on some form of assistance, be that help from FEMA or the Red Cross or from smaller local organizations like churches and synagogues.

People who never before had to ask for or accept charity now are forced by circumstances to stand in lines at ad hoc soup kitchens and sleep at the homes of family, friends or even strangers or shelters while some form of temporary housing is found for them.

In some ways, they are now living the lives of America's poorest citizens, never knowing if they will have  a roof over their heads tomorrow or food to eat.

The very poor and homeless we are used to seeing are often mentally ill or drug addicted, and it is easy for us to blame their poverty on their own behavior or on being crazy.

But what we don't see are the thousands of very poor Americans who have been priced out of the housing market and who sleep in shelters or on friends' couches, go to work at low paying jobs with no benefits, and who rush back to those shelters before their early evening closing, often hungry, just so that they don't get locked out.

We don't see the the very poor who became impoverished because of a severe illness, who had to choose between getting a very ill child to regular therapy appointments and their jobs.

We don't see the families, ravaged by job loss, job erosion and by employers who cut or eliminate employee benefits, often by cutting employees' hours to just below the full time threshold, families whose regular dinners consist of ramen soup and whose breakfasts are often nonexistent.

As horrible as it is right now in some Jewish areas of New York City, just blocks away outside them it is often far worse, because these already poor communities lack the financial resources and fundraising expertise to supplement the assistance the government can give.

There are many lessons we can learn from Hurricane Sandy about disaster relief and New York City's infrastructure and its ability (or its lack there of) to help those in need quickly enough.

But a lesson we can all learn, especially those of us who were unfortunately directly impacted by the storm, is that poverty and all the suffering that comes with it can strike us – or anyone – in a heartbeat, and as much as we may suffer, it often seems as if no one outside of our fellow sufferers really cares.

America's social safety net is set too low and too narrow. It punishes people for being poor rather than stabilize them and give them the help and guidance to try to become self-reliant again.

No one should have to choose between having enough food to eat and paying their rent or buying their doctor-prescribed medicines.

No one should have to choose between caring for a sick child or spouse or their job or their home.

As the rain and snow of this latest Nor'easter blankets New York and New Jersey and momentarily covers the damage Hurricane Sandy left behind, take a moment to think about those Americans who became poor through no fault of their own, as if a hurricane or Nor'easter struck them, but no one else would see or help.

In this sad and horrific moment, all of you know someone who is suddenly poor, someone whose life has been devastated.

If that person isn't you it easily could have been you.

Never forget that.


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The previous article says it's all God's will. Mitt Romney & friends say it's not the Federal government's business to help people.

Shmarya, you're flying in the face of all these experts.

Hell, many of the Republicans on Staten Island say it's not the government's job to help people after disasters.

Oh, wait, this time is the exception.

Cognitive dissonance:

I watch the science channel and i see there so many different ways that such situation where water electricity food can be tottaly disrupted in other words catastrophies one is and it happened in ontario a few years ago where the sun shoots out a gigantic solar flare where all electric grids can short circuit it could happen in new york on a massive scale the best lesson we can leran is to be prepared start now after this storm with prevention measures against loosing out ability to have the basic neccesaties.

It's pashut. The lesson we learn is to not attempt to ban MBP or Kaporos. Otherwise the next mabul will drown BP, Willie and Flatbush like rats in a sewer.. oh wait.. (sarcasm)

SkepticalYid -Dont say that i live in bp besides if you know bp its next to sunset park which is a couple of hundred feet above sea level in bp there was no flood neither in flatbush or willie, so get that fact straight otherwise lets pray we dont get no more earthquakes:)

I can speak to this. One day I was comfortably (upper) middle class, living in a 2400 sq ft house filled with stuff, much of it of sentimental, as well as monetary, value: artwork, heirlooms, antiques, rare books, and so on. The next day I was homeless with only the clothes on my back and the contents of a small carry-on. Although I tried to, I got no help from the Federation or the Red Cross, and I did not get all that I was supposed to from FEMA. For months my job was wrangling on the phone with two insurance companies trying to get the reimbursements that my policies called for--with limited success. If I hadn't worked in the insurance industry and didn't know what my policies really provided, I would have gotten even less. Fortunately I had some assistance from my son (logistical, not financial) and some savings, or I do not know what would have become of me. With my own resources I was able to survive, have a roof over my head, food on the table and other necessities. In the general atmosphere of no help I do have to thank a group of Jewish volunteers from North Carolina who cleaned out the contents of my flooded house (a disgusting job) and another group of Southern Baptists who gutted my house--and the US tax code which allowed me to deduct portions of my $300,000 worth of uninsured losses. In addition I lost my whole circle of friends and acquaintances, health care providers, etc., etc. These social ties were extremely difficult, in some cases impossible, to reproduce in my new life.

In addition I have suffered psychological trauma that I don't think will ever pass. A heavy rain (even here in the desert) makes me very nervous, and I am very distressed whenever there is a hurricane on the loose, although there are no hurricanes possible in Arizona. At an event marking the fifth anniversary of Katrina, I met a friend, neighbor, and colleague who also relocated to Arizona. She told me that she didn't have enough clothes or furnishings because she was afraid that if she acquired anything, she would lose it. I told her that I have a ridiculously excessive wardrobe, because I am afraid of being left again with nothing but the clothes on my back. Eerily three weeks after this conversation, my friend's new home was burned to the ground by an arsonist. One of my best friends was rescued by a Coast Guard helicopter just before a looter, carrying a gun, was about to enter her home. She continues to have post-traumatic emotional problems.

The point of this is that those who have lost their homes and been displaced by Sandy will continue to have emotional problems even after they are rehoused, warm, and properly fed. And chances are, they will be relocated in areas near thire original homes, families, and friends, which was not true for those affected by Katrina. The Sandy victims, particularly the elderly, will need ongoing consideration and emotional support--the trauma will be a long time going, if it ever does.

Just so, the chronically poor among us will never be able to cope alone with the physical and emotional stress of being ill-housed, ill-fed, and socially isolated. They deserve the support of those who are more fortunate and in a position to help. An operative word here is fortune. Much of what drives people into poverty is simply ill fortune. Most of us do not have the resources to cope with catastrophic illness, mental health crisis, widespread economic collapse and other such misfortunes withou thet help and compassion of others who have the luck not to be so afflicted.


great post.


i love the link. thanks.


so sorry for what youve been through. thanks for sharing. it makes my sandy displacement thanks to flooding and no heat seem minor, in a good way.

Posted by: jancsbacsi | November 07, 2012 at 04:33 PM

Uncle Johnny, it was a joke. I forget that sometimes you magyar types take statements literally.

I just found this amazing article

Shmarya could you find out if this is true?

I have a friend who, ever since the 1994 Northridge earthquake, is unable to walk by a dark window or put a cup in the sink without a towel around it. She doesn't understand why. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is tough and frightening in and of itself. MM, so right. Comfort, help, a hand to hold and a shoulder to lean against - the warm feeling of security and contact will be needed forever.

Shmarya, beautiful.

it used to shock me when tragic events happened (from 9-11 to leiby kletzky etc...)
BUT now things have changed. it doesn't shock me anymore when we go from one tragedy to the next R"L.-due to many reasons-one of them being that we don't accept Hashems wake-up calls for teshuva, we leave Hashem no choice.

Hashem & rochel imeinu are crying every day for a stop to the tragedies & destruction of peoples lives. But we have still not accepted upon ourselves to bring upon us a time for teshuva & fasting & kinnus with a return of achdus to klal yisroel

When this occurs (hopefully soon) then Hashem will not need to send us hurricanes & other tragedies to wake us up

may mashiach & the geula arrive ASAP

Another lesson from the storm: FEMA Disaster Centers Shut Doors 'Due to Weather'

MM - You've been through a lot. I'm sorry for all your losses. What you wrote is so true.

Republicans believe in smaller government. They want the charities to help people in these natural disasters and other massive destruction events. But charities simply do not have the resources of billions of dollars. But the government does. With just one dollar of taxes from 100 million Americans and they can help tons of people. What charity can do that? Charities are limited to the extent that people want to give. Taxes do not give people a choice, but raise money that then gets distributed in large amounts.

Republicans are big talkers about small government until they are in need of the government to help them.

Shmarya - excellent points.

MM - hugs

mashiach agent- go ask the yeshiva of spring valley if they'll allow you to lecture there. you'll have a captive audience. they really like people like you.

@MM: "Although I tried to, I got no help from the Federation"

Shmarya has been complaining about this for years, and he's right - the Federations have little to no interest in dealing with Jewish poverty, either temporary or chronic. They provide limited housing and services for children, the elderly and the disabled (as long as it's a disability they can see, like blindness or being wheelchair-bound), but apart from that - forget about it. For the Jewish community in general, Jewish poverty is an embarrassment, and the prevailing attitude has for a long time been, "If you're Jewish and you're poor, it's your own damn fault."

It wasn't always this way. Two or three generations ago, when Jewish charities were still small, self-contained organizations - nursing homes, mutual aid societies and the like - they operated much more effectively. However, as soon as Jews started becoming affluent (which didn't take very long), a lot of money began pouring into them, they began merging and a class of professional philanthropy managers arose. Now these organizations are corporate entities operating under the heading of "non-profits" (an irony I don't think I need to point out), and are all about providing those bureaucrats with six-figure incomes and cushy retirement packages. Although this process began, I think, during the fifties and sixties (Shmarya would know more about it), it became worse during the Reagan administration when the economy was artificially pumped up and for a few brief years everyone was making money hand over fist. We're still dealing with the effects of it today.

It won't change. Everyone today has an unprecedented attitude of entitlement, and nearly all sense of communal responsibility or interdependence is gone. This is one of the main reasons humanity has very little time left.

SkepticalYid | November 07, 2012 at 04:19 PM

You have it wrong. Many religious blame the storm on unnatural sex permissiveness and other transgresssions. Doesn't MBP and cruelty to animals fit in those categories?

The storm taught us not to take our securities for granted. Anybody can have all necessities one day and lose it in a mater of seconds. Food stamp recipients rose during the past few years because of job loss. People in my community who never dreamed of applying for food stamps and unemployment now do.

I hope that the new poverty class will now stop blaming all poor for causing their own situation.

Also, the more government relief programs, the less private efforts to help the needy. We need both, not one ore the other.

Clinton - The Onion is a satirical publication. It's for humor only, nothing there is real.

Urgent Plea:!

I am in Kollel in Lakewood for 37 years. I have four sons and three son-in-laws in Kollel as well. We all devote our time and energy to Torah learning.
In order to properly dress and feed breakfast lunch and supper, and decent housing for our 48 children and grandchildren, we need all the Government help and programs we can get.
So, please don't be stingy on your taxes, we need it.

Joel if you legally divorced your wife, and had your children do the same, you could all adopt each others children and fleece the government even more.

3-Dots -

Joel never legally married his wife in the first place. She got single-mother benefits for their 7 kids - food stamps and section 8 free rent, govt healthcare, etc.

Don't make fun of Medicaid. If your child needs braces, your dentist will be much nicer to you with Medicaid, then the most expensive health insur.
All people with Medicaid get approved for Braces immediately. The Government has alot of money.

Joel | November 08, 2012 at 10:32 AM

Why should the goyishe secular stte support your learning?

If you'd stop isolating yourself from the public like a monk, you might have more insights into the realities of the world!

Government welfare programs should be for those who need them, not people who choose to lives of poverty and not work!

My kids are Talmudei Chachomim so they must stay learning all day. It would be a waste of time for such brains to go to work.

Joel is a Poe

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