Sandy-Hit Shuls Apply for Aid Despite Ban

FEMA Barred From Helping Houses of Worship for Now

Separation of Sandy and Shul: The superstorm did massive damage to synagogues including this one on Long Island. Shuls are being told to apply for federal aid, even though FEMA rules now explicitly bar assistance to religious organizations.
courtesy of temple israel of long beach
Separation of Sandy and Shul: The superstorm did massive damage to synagogues including this one on Long Island. Shuls are being told to apply for federal aid, even though FEMA rules now explicitly bar assistance to religious organizations.

By Seth Berkman

Published December 02, 2012, issue of December 07, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 3 of 3)

Rabbi Benjamin Adler of White Meadow Temple, in Rockaway, N.J., said his congregation had not yet applied to FEMA, as he was waiting to hear back on what his insurance would cover and didn’t know what could be covered under FEMA regulations.

The advocates encouraging synagogues to apply were optimistic that legislation could be introduced to allow houses of worship to receive federal funding.

In March 2002, the O.U. worked to get FEMA reconstruction funds for Seattle Hebrew Academy after an earthquake struck the area. According to The Jewish Week of New York, the O.U. also successfully lobbied in 2007 to have the statute that governs FEMA amended to make nonpublic, not-for-profit schools eligible for aid.

“The discussion we’re having is not to change the law,” Diament said. “It’s not about church and state issues, or the impact that Sandy may have wrought on a number of houses of worship, but whether or not they [FEMA] have the ability under their operating statute to make those grants.”

Not every applicant believes FEMA can provide a magic solution for their financial woes, though. Rabbi David Bauman of Temple Israel of Long Beach, in Long Island’s Nassau County, said he felt rushed into having to apply for aid by the December 30 deadline.

“It takes time to understand, to really assess your situation,” he said. “I’m not even sure four weeks after the event we’ll know.

“I’m a novice when it comes to these sorts of issues, but there should be the ability, as time goes on, during the next few months up to a year, to continually have a conversation with different agencies to help make a place as whole as possible”

Bauman said his synagogue was insured, but he noted, “Insurance companies have outs for everything.

“We’re not even sure if FEMA can help us, because we are a religious institution. What I’ve learned in this environment is, you deal with every single agency and person you can, and not one entity is able to help any given situation, but it will be a combination of things.”

Contact Seth Berkman at berkman@forward.com

Assistant managing editor Larry Cohler-Esses contributed to this story


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • PHOTOS: Hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan yesterday demanding an end to American support for Israel’s operation in #Gaza.
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.