OU Applauds House of Representatives on Passage of FEMA Relief Legislation for Synagogues and Other Houses of Worship


February 13, 2013
For Immediate Release

Contact: Stephen Steiner (212.613.8318; steiners@ou.org)
Director of Public Relations

Spearheaded by the Orthodox Union, this legislation will provide millions in relief to over 200 synagogues and other houses of worship damaged in Hurricane Sandy and ensure that aid is provided in the event of future natural disasters.

Today, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America (Orthodox Union) — the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization — applauded the House of Representatives on its overwhelming passage of H.R. 592 — the “Federal Disaster Assistance Nonprofit Fairness Act,” by a vote of 354-72.

The bipartisan legislation — sponsored by Representatives Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Grace Meng (D-NY) amends federal law to ensure that churches, synagogues and other houses of worship damaged in Hurricane Sandy (and in future disasters) will be eligible to receive Federal aid to rebuild their facilities on the same terms as other private nonprofit entities already eligible for FEMA assistance.

Orthodox Union Executive Director for Public Policy Nathan Diament stated:

“We greatly appreciate the leadership of Reps. Smith and Meng, as well as Majority Leader Eric Cantor on this issue. In the wake of Sandy, the Orthodox Union has spearheaded efforts — first through negotiations with the Obama Administration and now through this legislation — to deliver this equitable and just assistance to our synagogues and other houses of worship which serve their communities always, and especially in the wake of a crisis. We look forward to seeing this legislation pass the Senate”

Congressman Smith stated: “Churches, synagogues and other houses of worship play an indispensible role in helping our communities recover from a disaster like Sandy, and they deserve equal treatment from the Federal government in disaster relief funding. That is why I am proud to have led this legislative effort. I am also proud and grateful to the Orthodox Union, and its executive director for public policy, Nathan Diament, for its incredible leadership in this effort in the service not only of the Jewish community, but of all faith communities.”

Congresswoman Meng declared: “The passage of this legislation is a great victory for the many houses of worship that were damaged or destroyed by Sandy. We’re now one step closer to ending the unfair and discriminatory treatment that churches, synagogues, mosques and temples have been forced to endure since the storm hammered our region. Hopefully, it won’t be long until these institutions — and the millions of Americans who benefit from the social services they provide — have access to the same FEMA funds that other nonprofit entities have been permitted to receive. I was proud to sponsor this critical legislation, and I thank the Orthodox Union for working with me to help highlight its importance.”