Our youngest grandson will turn one year old this month. He was born last October as Hurricane Sandy swept up the East Coast.
He arrived in the world during a time of uncertainty, when the limits of human ingenuity were starkly visible. As his birthday approaches, I think back over the year. Despite the fact that his development mirrors that of millions of others who have come before him, it is still awe-inspiring to ponder his growth, from tiny newborn to delightful toddler, now able to walk and laugh and create his own havoc.
I have always loved birthdays, and look forward to celebrating Jordan Micah’s first year. Surprisingly, in the Torah, the only birthday recounted is that of the Pharoah, the Egyptian monarch. In fact, birthdays aren’t particularly ritualized events in our Jewish tradition.
Instead, we are encouraged to commemorate the yahrzeit, the date of death of an individual, rather than their date of birth. We are taught to respect and aspire to what a person has done with their life, the sum and substance of what they accomplished over the course of their years here on earth.
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.”
In this week’s issue, we profile Nechama — Jewish Response to Disaster, a not-for-profit group from Minnesota that has been helping clear debris from buildings damaged during Hurricane Sandy.
We didn’t realize that the little-known group had a famous friend in the form of football superstar Eli Manning.
While Nechama volunteers were working in northern New Jersey in early November, they got a very special visit from the Giants quarterback, a resident of Hoboken, who stopped by the Hoboken Multi-Service Center and thanked them for an All-Pro effort in helping the community.
“He could come back anytime to volunteer and swing a hammer and we’d do the best to protect his arm,” said Bill Driscoll Jr., Nechama’s executive director.
During the storm, a photo of Manning surveying the damage in his apartment building went viral, thanks to actress Kate Mara, granddaughter of Giants founder Tim Mara.
Everyone was happy for the Big Blue booster.
But Driscoll Jr. admitted having mixed feeling about meeting Manning. After all, Driscoll is from Boston and a fan of the New England Patriots, the team Manning has dismantled in two Super Bowls.
“I’m a Patriots guy and he’s caused us some pain,” Driscoll Jr. said. “But I was happy to see this guy.”
Everyone on the East Coast has a story about experiencing Hurricane Sandy. You’ve already seen some of these stories on our website, forward.com, describing the storm’s impact on hard-hit Jewish communities and individuals. All this has been reported, edited and published despite devastation across the region and unprecedented flooding that has made our Lower Manhattan offices inaccessible.
The Forward staff has continued its work even though many of us have been stranded in darkened homes or distant cities. With intermittent access to electricity and the Internet, our website, Facebook page and Twitter feed have been updated regularly throughout the weather emergency.
Our printed newspapers, too, are being produced and mailed this week, as usual, though there may be postal delays in bringing your copy to you. This is beyond our control, and we regret any inconvenience. Thank you in advance for your understanding.