Forward Thinking

Lieberman Backs Aid for Sandy Damaged Shuls

By Seth Berkman

In one of his final acts as a lawmaker, Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) will reportedly file a proposed amendment to provide Federal Emergency Management Administration aid to houses of worship that were damaged by Hurricane Sandy.

The American Jewish Committee, which has long opposed federal aid to religious institutions, consistent with the separation of church and state, supported the amendment in a written statement provided to the Forward.

The statement, signed by Richard T. Foltin, director of national and legislative affairs at the AJC Office of Government and International Affairs, and Marc Stern, AJC general counsel said that, “we believe that aid distributed under a neutral program of storm relief may constitutionally be made broadly available to a wide range of organizations where eligibility is determined on the basis of an objective and unusual factor — hurricane damage — and not under the standardless discretion of government officials, posing a risk of religious favoritism.”

Rabbi David Bauman of Temple Israel of Long Beach, which incurred an estimated $5 million worth of damages from the storm, said that if Lieberman proposes the amendment and it is approved, it would be “a wonderful thing.”

“That would allow not only my synagogue, but all faith institutions to get the help they need,” Bauman said. “They deserve it, they’re the backbone of this country.”

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