Colorado Floods Wreak Havoc With Jewish Holidays as Shuls Battle Rising Water

Boulder and Denver Inundated by Historic Disaster

Rising Waters: Congregations in Boulder, Colo. were scrambling to save anything they could after historic floods swept through the region.
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Rising Waters: Congregations in Boulder, Colo. were scrambling to save anything they could after historic floods swept through the region.

By Andrea Jacobs

Published September 17, 2013.
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Chany Scheiner of Chabad of Boulder described a scene of utter chaos at the synagogue, which is attached to the side of her home. “CU and other places closed on Thursday,” she said. “My husband Rabbi Pesach Scheiner and I thought they might be making a big deal out of nothing.”

When three rooms filled with water later that night, they knew it was serious. “There was a flood in front of our house and the backyard was a nice sized swimming pool,” she said.

The Scheiners and their children were evacuated. Neighbors convinced them to leave. “We went in their car,” Scheiner said. “It was like the parting of the Reed Sea.”

When the Scheiners returned to assess the damage, they found a few inches of brown water in the synagogue. The family got on their knees to clean the small worship space and then tackled the house.

Days of heavy rain across Colorado’s Front Range left eight people confirmed dead as of Monday evening and hundreds more unaccounted for.

Reconstructionist Beth Evergreen, located in the foothills just outside Denver, nearly shut its doors on the evening of Yom Kippur due to flooding.

According to Rabbi Jamie Arnold, the road cutting through Evergreen, in the mountains west of Denver, was closed all day Friday, which meant congregants coming from Conifer would have to tackle a circuitous route from the opposite direction. Only about 30 to 40 “hard-core” congregants made it to Beth Evergreen for Kol Nidre, Arnold said, and about 300 attended Yom Kippur services the next day, when the clouds dissipated long enough to allow for safe travel.

“I didn’t change my sermon substantially,” Arnold said. “I included prayers for healing and read names for those unable to say kaddish for their loved ones. But my sermon was about the function of community; how it provides sanctuary. I think that said it all.”

Meanwhile, Rabbi Yisroel Wilhelm of Chabad at the University of Colorado was receiving a call a minute and a stream of emails Friday morning.

“We’ve already cleaned up our mess – only a few inches in the shul,” Wilhelm said. “But it’s pretty intense.”


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