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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“My husband said, ‘I got to see what this trailer is like,’” Cynthia Hellerman said.

She said the services are all the more important because the storm recovery kept neighbors busy throughout the winter.

“We really didn’t see a number of these people, and we weren’t aware where they were for quite a while,” Hellerman said. “We didn’t have phone service here, electric. We couldn’t make contact with people. It’s like a little family has gotten together again.”

As the memory of Sandy fades, Bob Hellerman realized it was important for him to take part in services in the temporary trailer, in the shadow of his empty synagogue.

He wanted to savor the unique communal bonds that — ironically — the devastation of the storm helped build.

“It’s like a part of history — it’s going to disappear,” he said.

Even when shell-shocked residents lined up in the days after the storm for laundry detergent and canned food at disaster tents, Bob Hellerman said it was good to see neighbors bonding as one. The tents from FEMA, the Red Cross and the electric company are long gone. But the synagogue’s trailer is still there.

“People from all over the Rockaways would come, and now it’s gone,” he said. “And this will be gone, too, but it’s nice to be here while it’s here.”

Contact Seth Berkman at berkman@forward.com


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