New York – New York City Council Speaker Wants FEMA To Pay For Sandy-Damaged Shuls


    Rabbi Avremel Okonov of the Friends of Refugees of Eastern Europe (FREE) of Brighton Beach synagogue and community center, survey water damage in the center's school library on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012, in the Brooklyn borough of New York. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)New York – New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn has called upon the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the United States Department of Homeland Security to approve federal aid for those houses of worship which were impacted by Hurricane Sandy.

    In a letter dated Jan 4, 2013 to FEMA Administrator W. Craig Fugate, Quinn wrote in part, “Churches, synagogues and mosques serve as a bedrock for our citizens and our communities. They not only provide places for people to worship but operate after-school programs, food pantries, and other critical services.” Quinn noted that the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Sandy has severely hindered the ability of houses of worship to re-open and resume their operations.

    Because of the constitutional mandate requiring a separation of church and state, current federal law prevents houses of worship from receiving federal aid as other nonprofit organizations do.

    “Recovery from a natural disaster like Hurricane Sandy isn’t a matter of state sponsoring religion,” the letter states. “It’s a matter of helping those in need after one of the worst natural disasters our country has ever seen. . . Under such extraordinary and painful circumstances, houses of worship should be eligible to receive aid on the same basis as all other non-profits damaged by the hurricane.”

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