Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations Applauds U.S. House Passage of Bill Mandating FEMA’s Fair Treatment of Disaster-Damaged Synagogues, Other Houses of Worship

Posted on December 21, 2017 In Press Releases

Today, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America – the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization – applauds the U.S. House for passing H.R. 4667, supplemental appropriations legislation that includes a requirement that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provide disaster relief to synagogues, churches and other houses of worship. The bill, approved 251-169, will now go to the U.S. Senate for a vote.

The Orthodox Union Advocacy Center spearheaded this provision of the bill that reverses FEMAs discriminatory policy of excluding houses of worship from being eligible for assistance in the wake of natural disasters such as the recent hurricanes in Texas and Florida.

The Orthodox Union thanks Reps. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), Peter King (R-N.Y.) and Grace Meng (D-N.Y.) for introducing the provision; Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Penn.), chairman of  the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee that unanimously approved it last month; and House Appropriations Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) for sponsoring today’s legislation that includes the FEMA/Houses of Worship provision. The Senate’s companion legislation is led by Sens. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), and Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

The provision will provide synagogues, churches, mosques and other house of worship with federal disaster aid on the same terms as other nonprofits such as museums, community centers and libraries damaged in natural disasters.

OU Executive Director for Public Policy Nathan Diament, who has been fighting for years to change the policy, stated:

“For far too long, FEMA has unfairly excluded houses of worship from this otherwise religion- neutral program. This legislation will finally put an end to this unconstitutional discrimination and help houses of worship get the relief they need from FEMA to rebuild after being damaged in natural disasters. We call upon the Senate to pass this legislation as well.”

OU President Mark (Moishe) Bane stated:

“When disaster has ravaged communities across the country, so many of our houses of worship have provided life-saving assistance despite sustaining serious damage to their own facilities. We couldn’t have done this without the leadership of Representatives Chris Smith, Grace Meng, Chairmen Bill Shuster and Rodney Frelinghuysen, as well as backing from the Trump Administration. We are also grateful for the support this effort has received from our coalition partners, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Jewish Federations of North America, Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, American Jewish Committee and Agudas Israel.”