Jews Fume at Inaction on Sandy Aid

As Congress Dithers, Storm Victims Struggle To Make Ends Meet

Storming: Rabbi Marjorie Slome of West End Temple in the Rockaways wonders if the synagogue will ever get help to repair damage caused by superstorm Sandy.
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Storming: Rabbi Marjorie Slome of West End Temple in the Rockaways wonders if the synagogue will ever get help to repair damage caused by superstorm Sandy.

By Seth Berkman

Published January 15, 2013, issue of January 18, 2013.
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Hoffman said his synagogue, Temple Israel of South Merrick, sustained about $100,000 in damage.

Gurkov said he hasn’t yet received money from his insurance company for the estimated $500,000 of damage to his synagogue, because the company is waiting to see how much the government pays out.

Many Democrats agreed. They blamed the GOP-controlled House, which closed out the final days of its last session mired in a standoff with the White House on President Obama’s push for tax increases on the wealthy.

New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg called the House’s failure to act on the aid bill passed by the Senate “a new low for House Republicans.”

Business owners are also growing increasingly upset at Congress’s indecision on the matter.

“I am so furious, they’re absolutely clueless,” said Howie Brecher, a businessman from New Jersey.

For 26 years, Brecher has made his living on the Jersey Shore. He owns four souvenir and clothing shops on Long Beach Island, an 18-mile strip of six municipalities that are a favorite summer destination for tourists. After the storm, Brecher had to lay off his winter staff of about eight workers. He invited each employee to his house and helped him or her apply for unemployment, but he found even that process cumbersome.

“Half got turned down,” Brecher said. “They all applied at the same time. The bureaucracy is so inept.”

Brecher said he planned to open one of his four stores by mid-March and the last by mid-May. But, he said, the upcoming summer could be disastrous for businesses if the island is not cleaned up and fully operating.

On Long Beach Island, municipalities are temporarily working from trailers. Major cleanup efforts remain unfinished, with five months to go before the summer vacation season.

Officials in Ship Bottom, a borough on Long Beach Island with more than 1,000 residents where one of Brecher’s shops is located, estimate that debris cleanup alone would cost $1.5 million. Additional work, including creating new dunes, retrofitting flooded generators and clearing storm drains, could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars more.

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