Skip To Content
Back to Opinion

Sandy, a Year Later

It’s been a year since the ferocious winds and voluminous rain of Hurricane Sandy left parts of the East Coast crippled and gasping for breath. The dead have been buried, the flood waters have receeded, most public services have been restored and the nation’s attention has drifted away. But look closely: The signs of destruction are still there.

Homes left in shambles. Storefronts still empty. Towering office buildings whose flooded basements have yet to be restored. Debris stubbornly clogging the shoreline. The Statue of Liberty reopened on July 4, but Ellis Island is closed indefinitely. One hospital, Long Beach Medical Center, remains shuttered. And the congregants of West End Temple in the Rockaways are still worshipping in a trailer.

At least 72 synagogues in the New York metropolitan area were damaged by the storm, some incurring millions of dollars in losses. Jewish communities were affected in other ways, too: houses destroyed, businesses erased, day schools and senior citizens centers damaged.

So drawn out are the consequences of this storm that UJA- Federation of New York is mobilizing mental health and spiritual care teams to assist those struggling with longer-term trauma issues. Later this year, the federation will launch a trauma education initiative to train service providers in agencies, day schools and synagogues.

So the first lesson here is that a storm of this magnitude does not fade away quietly. The suffering continues.

The second lesson is that even though Jewish charities have poured million of dollars into relief efforts, the need continues. The federal government is not the only answer here — even if it were functioning. And as of this writing, it is not.

Some communal leaders made a great show of urging synagogues to apply for funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, even though its regulations do not allow houses of worship to receive such relief. Pressed by lobbyists, including the Orthodox Union, the House passed a bill to reverse that regulation — a version so broad that public money could have been used to purchase Bibles, Korans and Torahs.

The Senate’s iteration more narrowly focused the federal aid to repairs of physical structures, but that change wasn’t enough to persuade Delaware’s Tom Carper to bring the bill up for discussion in the Homeland Security and Government Affairs committee that he chairs. And that’s because Carper — rightly, in our opinion — believes that the bill is unconstitutional.

The third lesson from Sandy: Instead of lobbying FEMA for money, let’s lobby Congress to address the looming environmental concerns that may bring another devastating storm even before we have fully recovered from this one.

A message from our editor-in-chief Jodi Rudoren

We're building on 127 years of independent journalism to help you develop deeper connections to what it means to be Jewish today.

With so much at stake for the Jewish people right now — war, rising antisemitism, a high-stakes U.S. presidential election — American Jews depend on the Forward's perspective, integrity and courage.

—  Jodi Rudoren, Editor-in-Chief 

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.