How to Prepare for Disaster

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JFREJ member and SUNY disaster historian Jacob Remes wrote this week, "The best disaster preparedness we can have is to build the kinds of communities we want to live in." That's the vision that is inspiring our work at JFREJ.

Amidst the destruction, we have seen so much courage this week. Homecare workers who overcame extreme adversity to be at their care-recipient's sides during the storm and the aftermath; leaders of CAAAV: Organizing Asian Communities who stood up to police when the local precinct threatened to shut down CAAAV's relief operations that were reaching thousands of residents days before FEMA or the Red Cross even entered Chinatown or the Lower East Side; huge groups of people countering fear and isolation to reach those in distress from the highrises of lower Manhattan to the ravaged houses of the Rockaways. It is clear that the hurricane relief efforts of the past week are deeply connected to JFREJ's campaign work for domestic worker justice, transformations in the care industry, and police accountability, and our long-term work against racial and economic injustice.

Through Hurricane Sandy, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice turned to the leadership of our allies -- CAAAV: Organizing Asian Communities, the Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES), FUREE (Families United for Racial and Economic Equality), and other community organizations -- to know what work needed to be done for those hardest hit by the storm, and how to build power while we worked. The response of the JFREJ membership was overwhelming. Hundreds of JFREJ members have shown up day after day in response to the call for volunteers and supplies. You have joined our allies in disaster relief the way you have joined them for decades on the picket lines, at campaign meetings, and in protests.

As the days draw on and relief is still badly needed, JFREJ will continue to support our ally organizations in hurricane response efforts and in the calls for systemic change in our city. Through the coming week, we will continue to provide daily updates each morning on the supply and volunteer needs of our ally organizations on the JFREJ website. Today it is especially important to assist those deeply affected by the hurricane to get to the polls to vote. On the website are ways to support CAAAV and FUREE in these efforts. You will also find a video by JFREJ member Ariel Federow on how to be a great volunteer in these relief efforts.

We're thinking about this coming week, but we're thinking also about the weeks and the months to come, and the questions that Hurricane Sandy has left in it's wake.  How will areas of New York already targeted for privatization and displacement, communities already targeted by the NYPD for invasive and discriminatory policing, and workers already targeted by abusive labor practices all be affected by the storm? And what organizing do we need to do to keep our communities strong in the face of heightened levels of institutional oppression? We will continue to be in dialogue over the coming weeks, months, and years, as we wrestle with these challenges. Together, we will work to undermine the systems that enable inequality, isolation, and institutional violence to occur. We will continue to prepare for disaster by building the kind of community we want to live in.


Marjorie Dove Kent
Executive Director
Jews for Racial and Economic Justice