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!
  • PHOTOS: Hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan yesterday demanding an end to American support for Israel’s operation in #Gaza.
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • 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.