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

(page 3 of 5)

During services, Slome sits next to the front table with the candles, leading the congregation in prayer and song, while the lights above occasionally flicker as the generator increases or decreases in noise. The group members sing and clap along to songs like “V’Shamru” and share thanks in celebrating Passover.

“I think one good thing about being in here is, you can actually hear everyone singing,” Winter said. “When you’re in the big sanctuary and there’s this number of people, it feels much less. It’s kind of exciting when you see we have to put down more chairs than were originally out there. It feels like a large, tight group that’s worshipping together.”

Jill Hunziker, a Rockaways resident, said she enjoys how Slome can inject humor into a service while relating to a wide audience that is not necessarily strictly observant.

“She really makes it easy for lots of people who may have been more assimilated Jews, or those from intermarriages,” Hunziker said. “She allows the tent to be really big.”

During the service, Slome compared the story of Passover to the storm. “Many of us felt like we walked into the Red Sea,” she said to her congregation, “and it didn’t part for us. But we are a people who go back a long way and know how to deal with challenges.”

Few in the Rockaways remember many challenges like the one posed when Superstorm Sandy rolled ashore last October 29.

Although the wind and rain did little damage at the West End Temple, which had a membership of around 100 people, the rising floodwaters submerged the entire sanctuary in several feet of water. When Slome arrived hours after the storm passed, the pews were still completely underwater.

Even today, watermarks that reached up to 5 feet on the glass entry doors have not yet been cleaned. The floors of the sanctuary and gymnasium were completely stripped off, with the dirt underneath exposed. Walking on the ground in these rooms felt like walking across the sandy Atlantic Ocean beaches less than a half a mile away.

When Slome walks through the building now, she does her best to shield the pain by pretending that she’s walking back in time. It’s like “walking into an archaeological dig,” she said.

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!
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • Employees complained that the food they received to end the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan was not enough (no non-kosher food is allowed in the plant). The next day, they were dismissed.
  • Why are peace activists getting beat up in Tel Aviv? http://jd.fo/s4YsG
  • 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.