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What Do You Do Now?

Posted on 11/02/2012 @ 08:11 PM

Whenever a natural disaster strikes, particularly when we’re geographically distant but emotionally near, we struggle with how to respond. Aside from the practical question of what can be done to ease the burden of so many affected by Sandy, how do we come to terms with a natural world which is the cause of so much destruction, loss, and pain?

Our teens are rallying themselves and organizing their own response, but what is ours – as individuals, as people with friends, colleagues, and loved ones in the affected area? As Jews?

Here are three initial things all of us can do this weekend to have a positive impact and demonstrate our communal responsibility for our extended family. Give time. You probably know someone in the affected area. Give them a call. Let them talk – or if they’re talked out, let them listen. Follow their lead and just be there for them. Give blood. The combination of a natural disaster with a widespread weather emergency has resulted in a significant shortage of blood. If you can’t give blood, you can volunteer at a blood drive. Most communities collect blood both through the Red Cross and through hospitals. Give money. It’s not the amount that matters, but the fact that by giving you are concretely assisting the community’s ability to get back on their feet. You can give to a specific organization (maybe ask your local friends when you’re talking to them) or check out: the URJ fund, the UJA-NY fund, and the Jewish Federations of North America fund. In addition, Uri L’tzedek is a justice organization that’s helping on the ground in NYC. Beyond these tangible actions, many of us are also struggling spiritually with how to internally respond to this tragedy. In the aftermath of the Japanese tsunami in March, 2011, Rabbi Shai Held from Mechon Hadar wrote a powerful prayer that is quite relevant today: Ruler of Creation, Master of the world: Have mercy on all those who are suffering from the raging waters and the storming waves. Have compassion on Your creatures – Look, O Lord, and see their distress; Listen, God, and hear their cries. Strengthen the hands of those who would bring relief, comfort the mourners, Heal, please, the wounded. Grant us wisdom and discernment to know our obligations, and open our hearts so that we may extend our hands to the devastated. Bless us so that we may walk in Your ways, “compassionate ones, children of compassionate ones.” Grant us the will and the wisdom to prevent further disaster and death; Prevent plague from descending upon Your earth, and fulfill Your words, “Never again shall there be another flood to destroy the earth.” Amen. So may it be your will.

Our responses, both physical and spiritual can change how we are affected by an event. Each of these actions will not only help others but will change how you internalize what happened.

So - what will you do, this weekend and beyond, to help all people affected by Hurricane Sandy, including yourself?

(This Shabbat message was prepared by Rachel Meytin, Director of Panim & Jewish Enrichment)

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