Is there anyone who can tell us what the heck is going on? We in New Jersey have
no power, no heat, no lights, in some places little food, and no gas. Yes, I
know these are mere inconveniences compared to those who have suffered the
unspeakable tragedy of losing family members. At least 100 are dead from Sandy,
and those lives are irreplaceable. We mourn their loss. But nothing should
excuse New York and New Jersey looking like Armageddon.
Aren’t we the
nation that rebuilt Iraq and have done tons of nation-building in Afghanistan?
Can’t we put the lights and heat back on New Jersey? Is it asking too much to
bring a bunch of fuel tankers here and end the 100 vehicle long lines that are
growing larger by the day? Just getting from point A to point B has been like
navigating an labyrinth since the gas lines have cut off so many of the streets.
President Obama declared this area to be a Federal Disaster Area. But where is
FEMA? Where are the troops? Where are the gas tankers?
On the news we see cities
that are still underwater. Half of Manhattan has no electricity. Staten
Islanders are desperate for food and shelter. Tens of thousands of residents on
the Jersey Shore lost everything. But President Obama is back on the campaign
trail in Ohio. Because I don’t want to politicize this, I’ll make the same point
about Governor Romney. True, he’s the challenger, not the incumbent. But both
the President and the Governor need to understand the extent of the catastrophe
all around us and do something besides argue about mobs overseas. This is more
immediate. President Obama is campaigning with the all the advantages of
incumbency. But that entails all the responsibilities as well. And coming for a
photo-op with Governor Christie then running back to Ohio ten times is wholly
The people of this area deserve better. We’re taxed up the
wazoo with the highest state and property taxes in the nation. For all that, we
normally get crumbling infrastructure, potholes, and rusty bridges that cost $12
just to cross. To add a dismal and slow response to such a huge natural
catastrophe is too much.
In the City of Englewood where I live nearly all
the residents have no power. Trees are down everywhere. It would be nice to see
the occasional electric crew repairing the wires or the occasional city crew
chopping up the trees. It would be nice to hear more from Mayor Frank Huttle,
who is running unopposed this Tuesday (yes, that’s what passes for democracy in
our city), about when the power and heat will be back on.
Since Tuesday I
have driven all over the Ninth District where I’m running for Congress. The
police are out in strength, stopping you from going here, preventing you from
going there. They’re trying to protect us and I thank them. But where are the
relief crews? Last year at almost precisely this time we had Tropical Storm
Irene that became a freak snow storm that downed endless trees and caused huge
flooding. We went without power for a week, unfortunately for us, the very week
before my daughter’s wedding. Family and friends came from around the world.
They sat and shivered for a week, thinking they had entered a third world
country. They couldn’t wait to leave.
So it’s not as if we couldn’t see
this coming. They promised us last year that it would not happen again. The next
time they would be ready. Granted, the devastation this time is far worse. But
the response seems far worse as well.
Three of my kids drive every
morning from New Jersey to Brooklyn for Chabad yeshiva and seminary. Today, they
waited three hours to get on the George Washington Bridge and eventually gave
up. They joined with me instead as we drove around the district meeting people
and hearing their tales of woe.
Not that we have much of a campaign left.
My staff and I have been reduced to charging our phones and laptops on the
floors of shopping malls, crowded Starbucks where there is no place to sit, and,
especially in the cars. My run for Congress has become completely mobile. In the
car we have heat, light, and the occasion cord for a laptop. And truth be told,
it’s been great getting out at all out hours just to meet people, so there’s
your blessing in disguise.
We did a Teletownhall tonight with a few
thousand participants. We’ve done a bunch during the campaign. On previous
occasions I asked the callers what their number one issue was. Every time it was
jobs and the economy. But not tonight where gas shortages, power outages,
freezing homes sparked huge outrage.
My opponent Bill Pascrell spent the
day savaging Republican Congressman Steve King of Iowa who apparently said he
wants aid for hurricane victims but with strings attached. No Gucci bags or
massages as, he claimed, happened with Hurricane Katrina.
Party extremists like Steve King who want to pass judgment, spread their false
assumptions and kick people when they are at their lowest are the worst that we
have to offer…” Harsh words. The worst we have to offer. These are words that
Pascrell never used when it came to Chester Grabowski, his friend after whom,
this past September, he tried to name a park, even though Grabowksi was a
notorious Jew-hater, racist, and holocaust denier who ran for Congress in David
Duke’s party. Less so did I hear him use this phrase in discussing Imam
Qatanani, the unrepentant Hamas Imam whom Pascrell has pledged to do “everything
in my power to keep you here” in the United States against INS, DHS, and FBI
attempts to deport him for lying on his Green Card application about an earlier
arrest and for membership in a terrorist organization. No, it turns out that a
fellow Congressman, however misguided in his words about conditions for aid here
in New Jersey, is “the worst we have to offer.”
But rather than Pascrell
wasting his time politicizing this tragedy and responding to every person
weighing in from halfway across the nation about this crisis, however wrong they
may be, it would behoove him, as a the elected representative in this area, to
get federal troops on the street, large gas tankers to the stations, electrical
workers restoring lines, and the army corps of engineers to get rid of the
flooding. And while this may be happening to some extent, it’s simply nowhere
near enough. Their presence on the streets has got to be felt.
This is no
time for politics. Everyone needs to pitch in, everyone needs to do something.
But more than anyone else, the people we elected to fix our problems have got to
start fixing this huge problem.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, whom The
Washington Post calls “the most famous Rabbi in America,” is the Republican
Candidate for Congress in New Jersey's Ninth Congressional District. The
international best-selling author of 29 books, he will shortly publish “The
Fed-up Man of Faith: Challenging G-d in the Face of Tragedy and Suffering.” His
website is www.shmuleyforcongress.com . Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.