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.
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Few mementoes of the once vibrant synagogue can be seen inside the ruined building. The rabbi’s office was once lined with file cabinets full of documents, but now it is dark and empty, with lights hanging from wires. The kitchen, where banquet meals were once prepared, is barren of food items. Even the American flag in front of the building is tattered and worn, looking as if it had done battle.

The building is still months away from being usable, even if the repairs go according to plan.

Meanwhile, the cost of operating the trailer is a huge burden on the small congregation. UJA-Federation of New York and the Union for Reform Judaism helped pay to install the facility: The URJ has already disbursed $29,403 to West End and pledged a total of $90,000 for the synagogue. But the high costs of running such a small space have been unexpected. For example, Slome estimated that it costs almost $600 per month just to operate the bathroom.

Still, the members all say they are certain the congregation will survive and that they are looking forward to moving back into their old building.

Slome is dreaming of bigger and better things. Once the synagogue is rebuilt, she hopes to reach out to the broader Jewish community of the Rockaway Peninsula by diversifying the programming. Several local Jewish congregations have not reopened since the storm struck.

“Our building is a jewel,” said Slome, who added that the synagogue used to host meetings of the Girl Scouts and Weight Watchers, among other community groups. “It is a diamond in the really, really rough right now. But we need to look at ways to make our building meet the needs of the local community, especially the Jewish community.”


At the end of the recent Sabbath service, the congregation sang “Adir Hu.” Originally, Slome planned to hand out copies of the lyrics to each member, but there wasn’t a working photocopy machine. Instead, the lyrics were written on a large yellow pad and hung on the wall.

Marsha Weber announced upcoming services and programs and where they would be held — each ending with the phrase “in the trailer.” A chorus of laughter grew with each mention of the term.

Cynthia and Bob Hellerman said the Spartan surroundings did not matter to them. They were even intrigued to see how the synagogue was managing in the makeshift space.


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