Sisterhood Blog

Falling Through Cracks That Sandy Made

By Johnna Kaplan

One year ago, much of the Northeast went dark in a violent rush of wind, and the water started to rise. One week after Sandy hit, I wrote about how I spent the days immediately following the storm, eating frozen Rosh Hashanah honey cake and surrounding myself with candles and flashlights. At the time it seemed like a momentary surreal interlude, like everything would eventually revert to normal and all would be righted. For me, and many others, that did not happen.

All I lost in the havoc of that late October night was a car. It is silly, bordering on offensive, to complain about that; the storm took human lives. But in the storm’s aftermath, I got a glimpse of the future, and the new cracks that had opened up for people like me to fall through.

Getty Images
Cars flooded by Hurricane Sandy.

I called FEMA the first night I could. I had tried to apply for aid online. But FEMA’s website equated property with real estate; there was no option for someone who had lost a vehicle. I explained that to the representative on the phone. He said I should have lied.

FEMA doesn’t tell you right way that if you have liability insurance, you are not eligible for aid. I found that out after months of applications and appeals and faxed documents, which I collected in a folder that grew to the size of a phone book of a medium-sized town. I tried not to whine about the bureaucracy. It was understandable, given how many people were affected, and it would all be worth it if the end result was that the loss of my only valuable possession, which I needed to work and take care of my family, wouldn’t financially ruin me. But eventually I was informed that buying decent insurance many years ago meant I was on my own now.

Still, I was prepared to accept that federal money was being distributed to those worse off than I am. If a parent with three children got aid and I didn’t, or if all of FEMA’s cash went to help homeless people off the freezing broken streets, I would have understood.

But the applicants who were approved for aid all around me were business owners, and the owners of beachfront houses. I had naively assumed that when FEMA asked for my income, it meant its assistance was partially based on need. Now I learned it was not

After the initial federal outpouring — over a quarter billion dollars in Connecticut, where I live — was allotted, the state wrangled another $72 million. For a second, my hopes were raised. But the money was reserved for home and business owners. My notions of responsibility (buying liability insurance) and recklessness (building a house a few feet from the shoreline) seemed to be officially upside down. As I write this, yet more money is being promised. It will go towards hardening infrastructure and helping homeowners whose property was not damaged during Sandy prevent potential damage next time.

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Jewish, Connecticut, Hurricane Sandy, FEMA, car

Does Being 'Moderately Attractive' Matter?

By Johnna Kaplan

Sometimes it’s the smallest offense that tips annoyance into full-blown outrage. CTBoom, a rather juvenile Connecticut news/entertainment/humor site I sometimes read, recently posted a video of a McDonald’s commercial involving a Hollywood actress-type who has never heard of Connecticut. But it was the post’s title, not the commercial, that set my metaphorical hair aflame: “Moderately attractive female asks McDonald’s ‘What’s Connecticut?’”

Leaving out the ick-factor of the word “female” and the observation that the actress was conventionally pretty (HUH!?), whatever comedic value exists in a joke about West Coasters’ cluelessness about New England would exist whether the actor who uttered the punch line was male or female, attractive or not. The joke, obviously, is meant to be about ignorance.

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: connecticut, advertisement, mcdonalds

Finding Jewish Life in Sandy's Wake

By Johnna Kaplan

Johnna Kaplan
The remains of Johnna Kaplan’s car, post-Sandy.

When the tree crashed against the house and spilled its leafy branches across the driveway, it came to a crunching stop on top of my car, taking down power lines along the way. I couldn’t get very close in the dark confusion of the storm, but the next day, after a man with a chain saw cleared me a path to the driver’s side door, I removed all my belongings in preparation for the inevitable towing and demolition of the vehicle.

I leaned carefully onto the seat — the interior was strewn with broken glass — and unwound from the rear-view mirror the little Traveler’s Prayer that I’d hung there years ago when the car was still new.

In preparation for Storm Sandy, I’d gone to my parents’ house, about 75 miles away from where I live on the same Connecticut coastline, so I could help them in the powerless days we knew would follow. Now we were trapped — literally, by the fallen trees and wires — in their house, and I was unable to help anyone, even myself. We could only wait.

When we finally got out, we found a very New England scene, with wrecked suburban yards and people in puffy vests standing on line at Dunkin Donuts for hot coffee. But inside my family’s house it seemed that, along with our unwilling regression to a less complicated way of life, we had somehow become more Jewish.

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: sandy 2, sandy, jewish, connecticut




Find us on Facebook!
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.