A number of New York synagogues that were seriously damaged by Hurricane Sandy are not only facing mounting repair costs, but also have limited assets available to make the necessary fixes to sustain their congregations.
Using lists from federations, the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty and other local organizations, the Forward surveyed more than 87 congregations to evaluate the extent of the damage wrought by Hurricane Sandy on Jewish houses of worship in the New York area.
The Forward found that 14 synagogues in New York are in dire need of financial help, having incurred $100,000 or more in estimated repair costs, with one synagogue, Temple Israel of Long Beach, expecting to pay $5 million in damages. Of these 14 synagogues, seven did not have flood insurance. Many of these congregations are also housed in aging buildings that are more expensive to repair.
“We don’t have flood insurance, because it was prohibitively expensive,” said Rabbi Jonathan Muskat, leader of Young Israel of Oceanside, on Long Island. Muskat estimated $200,000 to $400,000 of damages to his synagogue and on-site mikveh. “We’re not sure if regular insurance will cover it,” he said. “We probably will not know for a long time.”
The majority of synagogues that were hit the hardest — suffering a range of devastation, from missing roof sections to ruined Torahs — were located in areas that are still struggling to recover from the storm, including Long Island’s Nassau County, the southern shore of Brooklyn and the Rockaways, in Queens.
In Brooklyn’s Brighton Beach, Young Israel congregation had more than six feet of flooding and estimated damages of $200,000. According to a report by local television station NY1, the Friends of Refugees of Eastern Europe of Brighton Beach Synagogue had six Torahs damaged, three of which were ruined. Each Torah was valued at about $50,000.
Less than a mile to the east, Congregation Shaarey Torah had 10 feet of water in the basement, along with damages to its kitchen, dining room and Kiddush room, all of which will cost about $100,000 to repair. One block north of Shaarey Torah, at Chabad of Manhattan Beach, rotted walls in addition to a loss of books, prayer shawls, Torah mantles, refrigerators, tables and chairs also tallied $100,000 in costs.
In Queens, West End Temple, in the Rockaways, reported more than $1 million in damages, while the staff of Howard Beach Judea Center predicted that it would take $100,000 to restore their congregation.
“If someone doesn’t step up and help us, I don’t know what we’re going to do to survive,” said Lisa Mason, an assistant director of the preschool at Howard Beach Judea Center.