Disappointment and an opportunity

Disappointment and an opportunity

A new year has begun on a sour note.

Normally, this newspaper does not take political sides, and we are not actually taking one now. We leave that to our columnists – especially Shammai Engelmayer, who usually can be counted upon to be left of center and Democratic, and Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, who is more attuned to the right of center and Republican. While we often comment on issues, we try to avoid either criticizing or supporting one party over another. Partisanship is not our function.

This time, however, we may appear partisan to some, but we have little choice. Our community, like so many others, was severely hurt by Superstorm Sandy. Our communal social service agencies have been taxed to the maximum in trying to deal with the aftermath of that horrific storm.

We are now at the height of the winter season, and parts of this country have already seen a series of devastating snowstorms. While we have seen some snow, we have been spared the worst – for now. Who is to say, however, what will happen next week, or next month? Who will come to the aid of the victims of a future storm this winter if our social service agencies lack sufficient resources to do so because they expended so much of what they had on Sandy relief?

Of course, all of us were assured, the federal government would help foot the bill. There would be funds to help the victims of Hurricane Sandy, and so our social service agencies would be in a better position to deal with future storms and the devastations those might create.

Yet as we in northern New Jersey and throughout the tristate area went to bed late Tuesday evening, it was to the news that the House of Representatives declined to take up an emergency relief bill as the current legislative session came to an end. That means that a new Congress must begin the process all over again. Considering that the new Congress opened in the second half of this week, only to adjourn again for two more weeks, only then to begin the serious working of creating legislation, including relief bills, what the House has done has put our communal resources in serious jeopardy.

This may sound as if it is a partisan argument, and it is in the sense that it holds the so-called “tea party” responsible and the tea party, which appears to have a stranglehold on the Republican House leadership, surely is partisan. It must be noted, however, that in our area of northern New Jersey and throughout the region, Sandy relief is not a partisan issue. Democrats and Republicans are united; liberals and conservatives are united.

It has been said that the Congress just ended was one of the least productive and most partisan in the history of this country. Regardless of whether that is true, there is no question that in its final act, the House of Representatives, at least, was the most irresponsible legislative chamber in decades, if not in the entire history of this country.

As such, we once again renew our urging that people here donate to their local Jewish family service, and to give as generously as possible to the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey during its upcoming Super Sunday campaign on January 27. It is clear, or at least it should be, that the only people we can depend upon to help us in a crisis is ourselves.

What a terrible way to begin 2013. Yet if we all step up to the plate, it may also be a truly wonderful way to start a new secular year.