Put Energy into Healing

The sense of frustration over the tragedy in the Gulf has made work very difficult. After all, the people there lack basic necessities of food water and shelter. Those things are so fragile and precious and we often take them for granted.

People struggling to survive, the weakest of the weakest left to fend for themselves. The elderly, the children, the uneducated and the poor. What have we done?

One doesn’t have to be religious to realize that our purpose in humanity is to help those that cant help themselves. Our own blessing is incomplete while basic life is denied to others.

We must pray and offer whatever assistance we can to those who are refugees, the sick, the homeless, the devastated lives left in the wake of this disaster. It is our test to pass.

This week we read the Torah portion of Shoftim. Shofim commands the Jewish people in establishing courts and judges to judge the people.

It is this week, that we lost our Chief Justice. It is this week and last that we witnessed the breakdown of civil society in New Orleans.

The Talmud exhorts to pray for the welfare of the country, because without a strong government, people would destroy one another.

It has always been hard for me to read this. I mean how can deliver such a low expectation of humanity?

The truth is that the Talmud doesn’t mean that everyone will act in this way, but rather that elements of the population will indeed destroy the rest if they are left to their accords.

There are people that have no fear of heaven. They prey on the week. They commit the most heinous of acts without fear of retribution. The stories that are now filtering out of New Orleans are so atrocious. The entire city was victimized by the flood, the storm, and criminals. It was Mad Max, or Waterworld, all in our own backyard.

Not only is the commandment to establish courts and law, and by extension the police, a requirement for Jewish life, but of course for the entire world. One of the seven commandments that have universal application, is the establishment of a system of Law and Justice

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The Torah tells us to place enforcers of the law at the gates of the city. On a simple level that makes sense to post guards. On a deeper level this means to guard the entrances to our soul from forces that seek to damage it. We must be protective of our humanity at all times. We should guard our eyes from seeing what they should not see and our ears from hearing what they should not hear.

Let us not become cynical at the plight of those that suffer, which sadly I have heard. Let us not despair of G-d for letting this happen. Let us now focus on helping those in need, spiritually and physically.

Times-Picayune of New Orleans printed this editorial in its Sunday edition

Dear Mr. President:

We heard you loud and clear Friday when you visited our devastated city and the Gulf Coast and said, “What is not working, we’re going to make it right.”

Please forgive us if we wait to see proof of your promise before believing you. But we have good reason for our skepticism.

Bienville built New Orleans where he built it for one main reason: It’s accessible. The city between the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain was easy to reach in 1718.

How much easier it is to access in 2005 now that there are interstates and bridges, airports and helipads, cruise ships, barges, buses and diesel-powered trucks.

Despite the city’s multiple points of entry, our nation’s bureaucrats spent days after last week’s hurricane wringing their hands, lamenting the fact that they could neither rescue the city’s stranded victims nor bring them food, water and medical supplies.

Meanwhile there were journalists, including some who work for The Times-Picayune, going in and out of the city via the Crescent City Connection. On Thursday morning, that crew saw a caravan of 13 Wal-Mart tractor trailers headed into town to bring food, water and supplies to a dying city.

Television reporters were doing live reports from downtown New Orleans streets. Harry Connick Jr. brought in some aid Thursday, and his efforts were the focus of a “Today” show story Friday morning.

Yet, the people trained to protect our nation, the people whose job it is to quickly bring in aid were absent. Those who should have been deploying troops were singing a sad song about how our city was impossible to reach.

We’re angry, Mr. President, and we’ll be angry long after our beloved city and surrounding parishes have been pumped dry. Our people deserved rescuing. Many who could have been were not. That’s to the government’s shame.

Mayor Ray Nagin did the right thing Sunday when he allowed those with no other alternative to seek shelter from the storm inside the Louisiana Superdome. We still don’t know what the death toll is, but one thing is certain: Had the Superdome not been opened, the city’s death toll would have been higher. The toll may even have been exponentially higher.

It was clear to us by late morning Monday that many people inside the Superdome would not be returning home. It should have been clear to our government, Mr. President. So why weren’t they evacuated out of the city immediately? We learned seven years ago, when Hurricane Georges threatened, that the Dome isn’t suitable as a long-term shelter. So what did state and national officials think would happen to tens of thousands of people trapped inside with no air conditioning, overflowing toilets and dwindling amounts of food, water and other essentials?

State Rep. Karen Carter was right Friday when she said the city didn’t have but two urgent needs: “Buses! And gas!” Every official at the Federal Emergency Management Agency should be fired, Director Michael Brown especially.

In a nationally televised interview Thursday night, he said his agency hadn’t known until that day that thousands of storm victims were stranded at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. He gave another nationally televised interview the next morning and said, “We’ve provided food to the people at the Convention Center so that they’ve gotten at least one, if not two meals, every single day.”

Lies don’t get more bald-faced than that, Mr. President.

Yet, when you met with Mr. Brown Friday morning, you told him, “You’re doing a heck of a job.”

That’s unbelievable.

There were thousands of people at the Convention Center because the riverfront is high ground. The fact that so many people had reached there on foot is proof that rescue vehicles could have gotten there, too.

We, who are from New Orleans, are no less American than those who live on the Great Plains or along the Atlantic Seaboard. We’re no less important than those from the Pacific Northwest or Appalachia. Our people deserved to be rescued.

No expense should have been spared. No excuses should have been voiced. Especially not one as preposterous as the claim that New Orleans couldn’t be reached.

Mr. President, we sincerely hope you fulfill your promise to make our beloved communities work right once again.

When you do, we will be the first to applaud.