Beit She’an, Israel
November 1st 2012 / 16th Cheshvan 5773
Both for the East Coast as a whole, and for us as an organization, this has been a week of improvisation in the wake of Hurricane Sandy – and we’re hardly out of the thick of it yet. With Lower Manhattan – including our office building – having been flooded and power out (according to a neighbor, Maiden Lane “basically was the East River”). The New York staff are working from laptops and coffee shops, volunteering where they can. They have been home, with and without power, with and without kids, doing what they can. Overall, I’m struck by the incredible spirit of generosity and community that has taken over New York as those more fortunate help out those in need.
As I write, the US death toll from Hurricane Sandy is now at 75 people. More than 6,000 New Yorkers are at shelters instead of their homes. The cost in terms of destruction, of homes and buildings, is obviously enormous.
One of those buildings is at Isabella Freedman in Connecticut, where a 100-year old tree crushed the roof of the main building. Click here to see the beautiful email that David Weisberg just sent out to the Isabella Freedman list.
As awful as it is, I hope that this hurricane will mark a turning point in how, as a society, we react to climate change. It should now be clearer that there are actually two quite distinct sorts of changes that we need to make. The second of the two is the obligation we owe to future generations. Reducing the amount of carbon and methane that we emit will not make any difference to the weather in the next two decades, and perhaps longer. But from a generational perspective it will make a difference. If historians a century hence are able to write: the world’s response to climate change was “too little, too late” until Hurricane Sandy finally triggered real change, then this Hurricane will ultimately have done some good. I hope and trust that the next President of the USA will be someone who acknowledges the reality of climate change and leads the country in a new direction.
The other sort of change is what’s known as “adaptation.” We will need to re-organize our societies to adjust to the new world in which we live. I’m writing this from Israel, where the post-Succot rains have – again – not come. I was very impressed when I heard President Shimon Peres talk last year about why you don’t see Jaffa oranges any more in England or the US. The reason is that, as he put it, “exporting oranges is like exporting water” (because growing oranges requires a huge amount of water for irrigation). Israel took the decision not to spend valuable water in a way that made no strategic sense for the country. There are a slew of decisions like this that we will have to think about in coming years.
I’m writing this from Beit She’an, at the end of the second day of our Israel Ride. Beit She’an has spectacularly well-preserved ruins – evidence of multiple civilizations who have lived in this place over the last 7,000 years. In response to an event of this magnitude, Hazon seems impossibly tiny in the work that we do. But we are playing a significant role, together with many friends and partners, in seeking to rally the Jewish community, and to support leaders in Israel and the middle east, to think about sustainability in significant ways.
The Hazon staff have compiled some suggestions for what you can do, how you can help. I would add, the impulse to help after disasters like this is a powerful testament to our humanity, and whether you can donate time, money, listen to a friend or family member tell their story, let your political leaders know how you’d like to see them respond – your actions are well-placed.
Kol tuv, Shabbat shalom
Executive Director, Hazon
- Donate to a local park – NYC parks were very hard hit, and they are essential
- Repair the World’s advice to help
- Donate money – UJA has set up a Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund
- Give Blood – the New York Blood Center needs about 2,000 donations/day to meet demand
- Donate to the Red Cross
- Support Isabella Freedman
- Opportunities to Help from the Huffington Post
- Opportunities from Jews for Racial and Economic Justice
- Volunteer with NECHAMA
- Opportunities to help from WNYC
- Sign up with New York Cares for volunteer opportunities in your area
- Volunteer opportunities from the Occupy Sandy network
- Lower East Side Recovers
- Red Hook Recovers
- Staten Island Recovers
- If you have medical and/or mental health training: join the NYC Medical Reserve Corps
As well as offering direct help for those who’ve been hurt by this storm, if you would like to be a stakeholder in Hazon’s ongoing work to foster a more sustainable Jewish community, and a healthier and most sustainable world for all, please support us.