Groups split on FEMA funding for damaged shuls

Jewish organizations are divided on whether federal emergency funds should be used to salvage houses of worship.

The Orthodox Union and the American Jewish Committee backed an amendment introduced by Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) just before the 112th Congress ended that would have designated Superstorm Sandy relief money to houses of worship, the New York Times reported Jan. 4.

The amendment never made it to the floor and Lieberman is now retired, but other lawmakers may take up similar legislation in the 113th Congress now in session.

Also backing the legislation is Agudath Israel of America. UJA-Federation of New York has counseled constituent synagogues to apply for Federal Emergency Management Agency money. FEMA rules do not necessarily count out such assistance.

The Anti-Defamation League, however, is opposing such assistance.

“The Constitution protects religious freedom by preventing the government from funding or endorsing any religion,” Michael Lieberman, ADL’s Washington counsel, said in an email. “A taxpayer should not have to fund a religion or a religious institution with which s/he disagrees.” — jta