Human and Don’t Forget Animal Welfare: More Mitzvah Storming

Hurricane Sandy Mitzvah Storming IV

— by Rabbi Goldie Milgram

1. Did you see Anat Hoffman’s tag line in her outreach for support of victims of Hurricane Sandy. “We are family,” she writes and cites Haaretz that “Israelis have followed no event in the United States as closely as Hurricane Sandy…and fact, New York City is the metropolitan area with the second largest Jewish population of any city after Tel Aviv.” Perhaps you have also seen the organization that serves Holocaust survivors soliciting Hurricane relief funds targeted for them. Never did it occur to me to fund raise based on the Jewishness of those affected — we are a human family during emergencies.

More after the jump.
Helping each other as equally as possible with eyes blind to difference, if not now, when? Many different religions are housing each others services right now in affected areas. Can we keep this a “simply human” situation, so many are still freezing in the dark and even still, without sufficient gasoline to relocate or forage for food?

Reports of houses of worship across every religion are now sharing sacred space throughout impacted regions, how inspiring is that? Candlelight b’nei mitzvah and first communions have abounded. While stories of religious leaders and youth groups going door to door have arrived in various movements’ press releases — I see no reason for us to get extra credit, claim credit, or pat ourselves on the back. Mitzvot are done for their own sake, not ours. And, yes, many of us will help repair synagogues, in Judaism lives get attention first.

When some of those I asked to join me in a trip to work in a shelter or setting the tikkun olam (social action) committee into motion, some replies most resembled this: “We only give and volunteer locally.” I felt very nonplussed and judgmental. It took awhile to process this with them.  Such a response turns out to come primarily from  “green thinking” that applies to every day living. Emergency funding and support has a very key strategic concept embedded – preventing emergency conditions from becoming chronic. Thinking local doesn’t do it for large scale emergencies, it compounds the long-term burden on society big time.

This morning I was reading an emergency room physician’s plea for people to be more aggressive about finding, taking in and insisting others get out of this cold wave– to prevent pneumonia and much more. The factors are pain and suffering, and costs of associated healthcare, and rehab of buildings that stay soggy rather than dry…I’m sure you get the point. Those who wrote us to volunteer to help with clean-up are in action in NJ as I write, I will again be with them today. They’ve asked for anonymity. Menschlichkeit is awesome.

Why were the tikkun olam committees in place throughout most Jewish organizations seemingly not pro-active rather than reactive? I’m sure many will be pondering this soon. The trauma of awaiting the storm is what I saw in the eyes of our Philly locals, it was so draining and some of our internet servers were ruined in lower Manhattan, underwater. So with compassion, we can move on to creating pro-active plans and assignments…for the next time. As my son who was evacuated from the Jersey shore put it: “We’ve had three storms this year already, the next time could be next week.”

2. Overarching best ways to help for those who live at a distance are clarifying — first, donate blood, this need has become urgent. Injuries to rescue and repair workers are vast because of the extremely hazardous conditions.…

3. The the vastness of need for clothing is proving to require bulk funding for bulk purchase of goods.Brooklyn Neighbors in Need Fund (a not-for-profit)”… asks that you…” donate money so we can buy the 600 pairs of underwear (socks, towels, belts, etc) we need for the Armory or John Jay.” [shelters].

Per the Red Cross: “The cost to sort, package and distribute these types of donations to disaster victims is usually greater than the cost of purchasing the items locally, and it is logistically impossible to distribute a wide variety of individual items in a meaningful and equitable way during an emergency of this magnitude.” Instead, make a financial gift via, 1-800-RED-CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.  

4. Let’s not overlook the crisis in animal welfare. The Humane Society of the United States and American Humane Society are seeking donations to help rescue stranded pets and help animals in shelters. In every affected state they are looking for volunteers due the vast numbers of displaced pets.

5. The Food Bank For New York City has different ways for you to get involved: You can donate by texting FBNYC to 50555.

6. Clean-up Teams. All clean-up volunteers that have contacted us have been put into action through the State of New Jersey volunteer coordination effort. When asked, these volunteers requested anonymity — what menschlichkeit, thank you! By all means now fly direct – opportunities abound to help in shelters, door-to-door, clean-up and more.

Some more links just supplied by my ever-mitzvah-centered colleague Rabbi Shawn Israel Zevit:

Most federations and many denominations are running support campaigns as well through links on their websites.

7. Prayer.

May we be blessed with the ability to heal, help, vote, and plan wisely for the future.

Via Rabbi Rachel Barenblatt, a litany of prayers composed by Rabbi Samuel Barth and Rabbi David Ingber, folded together and expanded by The Rev. Peter Elvin, 2 November 2012:

*A Litany after the Hurricane*

Source of all Life, soothe hearts aching with pain and loss in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Strengthen all responders, all relief workers, all friends and neighbors, to do their best to alleviate suffering, heal injury, and restore services upon which our daily lives are built. We lift up our eyes to the hills; from where is our help to come?

Our help comes from the LORD, the maker of heaven and earth.

Source of Compassion, you are close to all who are confused and bewildered in the wake of this shocking storm. Quicken their recognition of your
presence all around them. Free their ability to move through shock, to see and make their very best choices. Stir our resolve to support, encourage, donate, and pray. We lift up our eyes to the hills; from where is our help to come?

Our help comes from the LORD, the maker of heaven and earth.

Source of Wisdom, move within all of our hearts and minds and wills to learn the most important questions to ask and answer. Instill your wisdom
in all who are responsible for public policy, for future preparedness, for re-building and for re-thinking, as the elements of your created order? wind and rain, tide and surge– disorder our old assumptions. We lift up our eyes to the hills; from where is our help to come?

Our help comes from the LORD, the maker of heaven and earth.

Source of all Creativity, anoint our wisdom, our technology, our compassion, and our national will to rise from the watery grave of this storm and claim the new life your Spirit desires and our future requires. Inspire us to find flexible ways to cooperate across old boundaries, freeing energy and resources to move with your blessing. We lift up our eyes to the hills; from where is our help to come?

Our help comes from the LORD, the maker of heaven and earth.



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