KANCHIPURAM DISTRICT, INDIA -- The bright, clear morning of Dec. 26, 2004, would forever change S. Desingu's life.
The first monster wave rose from the Sea of Bengal without warning at 8 a.m. -- silently, massively.
For the Indian fishermen at sea, the startling energy pulse bumped harmlessly under their boats, passing in an instant. The wave started to rise ominously in the shallows.
Onshore, the 36-year-old Desingu glanced up to see a 30-foot liquid wall surging in as tall as the tops of the soaring coconut palms. The fishing craft along the shore rolled end over end, tossed as easily as playthings in a bathtub.
The gut-wrenching scenes of human suffering witnessed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina are not only the result of the levee failures at Lake Pontchartrain, but also the failure of a nation numbed to the growing division between "haves" and "have-nots."
What is appearing on television sets across America is the inevitable impact of decades of ignoring a stark difference in economic realities. While wealthy, predominantly white Gulf residents -- and most Jews -- were able to leave the region or escape to higher ground, it was poorer, largely black, elderly and sick Americans who were left behind to fend for themselves.
In the case of New Orleans, high poverty rates already existed before the storm: More than 30 percent of the population lived below the federal poverty line. These are, in most cases, the victims whose bodies we saw floating in the Mississippi River and dying for lack of basic necessities at the New Orleans Convention Center and Superdome.
We lost e-mail contact with our son, Kayitz, when he and his Marine unit disembarked from their ship on Feb. 24. From just about the beginning of the Iraq War, though, we knew what he was going through.
Rabbi Alan Lachtman began Shabbat services at Temple Beth David in Temple City on Dec. 8 by having the children's choir sing "Light One Candle," a song by Peter, Paul and Mary. The song had symbolic meanings, both positive and destructive, for the congregation. Twenty years ago, on Dec. 6, 1980, the fifth day of Chanukah, two neo-Nazis broke into the synagogue, poured gasoline on the pulpit, and set the synagogue on fire. The sanctuary was gutted, the cabinet containing the Torah scrolls was singed and two Torah scrolls -- one of which had been rescued from the Holocaust from a temple that had burned years ago -- were damaged.