Friday, September 9, 2005 | return to: editorial


Responding to Katrina: editorial

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The destruction wreaked by Hurricane Katrina along the Gulf Coast and the subsequent flooding of New Orleans will have untold consequences for years, perhaps decades, to come.

But we cannot afford to think about that yet. Right now, thousands of victims need our help. As our cover story shows this week, the Bay Area Jewish community has shifted into high gear to lend a hand.

Synagogues, day schools and social service agencies throughout the region have cleared their calendars to devote time, energy and money to relief efforts. With unknown numbers of evacuees now headed to California, that help comes not a moment too soon.

Nationwide, millions of dollars have poured into relief organizations such as the Red Cross, the Union of Reform Judaism Hurricane Relief Fund and United Jewish Communities to assist victims still on the Gulf Coast and those housed in crowded venues like the Astrodome in Houston.

Certainly as Jews we will comfort and care for our own. But as the tragedy has impacted so many people beyond the Jewish community, we must now redefine exactly who comprises "our own."

We may not personally know the thousands of hungry and thirsty African American victims huddled on New Orleans rooftops. We may not know the names of the frail seniors hoisted out of the muck by brave rescuers. We may not fully grasp the trauma of children wading aimlessly through toxic floodwaters.

But they are not strangers.

They are our fellow Americans, our brothers and sisters in the human family. We cannot turn our backs on them. We must do everything we can as a society to save everyone affected by the storm and help them restore their lives.

Meanwhile, the punditocracy has been apoplectic with anger, recrimination and blame. While some say now is not the time for this debate, we disagree. This is far more than a partisan squabble.

Even as the rescue efforts continue, it is not too soon to ask the hard questions: Why was the initial federal response so slow? Who shall be held accountable for the multiple failures at all levels of government? Why did so many die after the storm had passed?

The nation demands answers.

But first things first. We must feed, clothe and house the New Orleans diaspora. For those coming to the Bay Area, Jewish and non-Jewish, let us welcome them with open arms, hearts and wallets. Let us show them the full measure of caring that defines our Jewish community.

Let us do those things. Because, who knows? But for a simple twist of fate, it could have been us.



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