Hit by Sandy, Jewish Congregation in Rockaways Finds Renewed Faith in Trailer

West End Temple Still Faces Long Road to Recovery

Haunting Sight: Nearly six months after Sandy, the West End Temple in the Rockaways is still holding services in  a trailer in its parking lot.
claudio papapietro
Haunting Sight: Nearly six months after Sandy, the West End Temple in the Rockaways is still holding services in a trailer in its parking lot.

By Seth Berkman

Published April 07, 2013, issue of April 12, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

On a recent Friday evening, Shabbat services at the West End Temple in the Rockaways was literally humming.

The vibrations weren’t emanating from members immersed in prayer. They came from a diesel generator that powers the 50-foot-long trailer where services are being held since the congregation’s sanctuary suffered severe damage from Hurricane Sandy.

Nearly six months after the storm struck, about 20 worshippers attend weekly services inside the trailer, which sits in the parking lot of the damaged main building. The organ blares incongruously in the cramped space. A stack of donated prayer books sits in a corner. In the bathroom, congregants can flush the toilet by stepping on a pedal. Above the sink, a sign warns that the water is not suitable for human consumption.

“I’m like the trailer trash rabbi,” Rabbi Marjorie Slome said.

Humor helps keep Slome afloat as her synagogue faces millions of dollars in repairs and some of her congregants remain displaced after the storm.

Ninety-year-old Evelyn Weber was more straightforward about the storm’s impact.

“I’m teaching you a Jewish word. This was a real umglik — a tragedy,” she said. “In addition to things that were worth money, just all the things you had to throw away, [photographs,] the memories of being here that we lost, you can’t replace your whole life history.”


Student Cantor Amanda Winter addresses congregants at West End Temple.
claudio papapietro
Student Cantor Amanda Winter addresses congregants at West End Temple.

As the season turns, and the region tries to put Sandy behind it, the trailer-bound congregation at West End is a testament to the storm’s lingering damage and to the painfully slow path to physical and spiritual recovery.

Despite being shoehorned into a space about one-tenth the size of the old sanctuary, Slome does her best to make her temporary location feel like home. The rabbi arranged trays of cookies and placed a loaf of challah between two candles, along with bottles of Manischewitz wine, on a folding table during the service the week before the start of Passover. Three rows of five folding chairs waited for worshippers.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Sigal Samuel's family amulet isn't just rumored to have magical powers. It's also a symbol of how Jewish and Indian rituals became intertwined over the centuries. http://jd.fo/a3BvD Only three days left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • British Jews are having their 'Open Hillel' moment. Do you think Israel advocacy on campus runs the risk of excluding some Jewish students?
  • "What I didn’t realize before my trip was that I would leave Uganda with a powerful mandate on my shoulders — almost as if I had personally left Egypt."
  • Is it better to have a young, fresh rabbi, or a rabbi who stays with the same congregation for a long time? What do you think?
  • Why does the leader of Israel's social protest movement now work in a beauty parlor instead of the Knesset?
  • What's it like to be Chagall's granddaughter?
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.