Coming Together in Times of Crisis



by Rabbi Hara Person

As we all try and process the horrors of the Boston marathon bombing, we must remember to stop and appreciate the good works that often gets overshadowed by the seemingly endless parade of horrible we read about each day.

Almost six months ago almost the entire east coast was rocked by Superstorm Sandy.  While many of us have picked up and moved on, two New York-area congregations, Temple Sinai in Massapequa and West End Temple in Neponsit, are still picking up the pieces.  Like many coastal-area homes and businesses, the synagogues suffered severe storm damage which included extreme flooding and loss of property.

We are proud to announce that the CCAR has donated over 400 new copies of Mishkan T’filah, the Reform Movement prayerbook, to the synagogues to help them to continue to move forward in their rebuilding process.

“We were heartbroken when we saw how the storm had ravaged these synagogues and uprooted the lives of people in their communities,” said Rabbi Steven A. Fox, Chief Executive of the CCAR. “We donated these prayerbooks to help individuals and congregations heal.”  He continued “As creators and publishers of Mishkan T’filah, we understand the important and powerful role that prayer can play in bringing a community together and allowing them to feel whole again.”

Rabbi Marjorie Slome of West End Temple was thrilled to receive the new prayerbooks, as extreme flooding destroyed her synagogue’s entire library. “We are so grateful for the CCAR’s generous support and donation to our temple,” said Rabbi Slome. “Receiving these books is truly a blessing as we rebuild.”

The CCAR facilitated the donation of the prayerbooks with funds donated by Rabbi Jonathan Stein, Immediate Past President of the CCAR and Senior Rabbi at Shaaray Tefila in Manhattan.

For Rabbi Stein, supporting these synagogues in their time of need was a given. “When I heard about the storm’s destruction; it was almost a visceral response,” he said. “I instantly committed myself to make this gift happen.” He continued “This is the kind of thing we do for each other in times of crisis.”

“During the aftermath of super storm Sandy, as we at Temple Sinai reached out for help and there were many who embraced our wet hands. As our community helped us we helped our community. It is was not easy for us to say: “We need help.” But, we soon learned that there are two sides to tzedakah – to give and to receive, both with dignity and humility.  Temple Sinai has been blessed to receive help/tzedakah from individuals, synagogues, and non-profits near and far.  One such is the CCAR.  With the CCAR’s contribution of Mishkan Tefila (prayerbooks) a renewed sense of worship has been given to us.  Knowing that the CCAR responded to our need, our members have a sense of connectedness which never before existed.  We are eternally grateful to the CCAR for their contribution,” said Rabbi Janise Poticha of Temple Sinai.

The CCAR’s donation is just one of the many ways that the Reform Jewish community has come together to support one another in times of need.  In the days and weeks after the storm, CCAR member rabbis, who serve both congregations and community organizations, galvanized their memberships to provide on-the-ground support and supplies to those in some of the hardest hit areas. The Union for Reform Judaism and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism have also played a leading role in the Jewish response to Sandy, including raising more than $750,000 for disaster relief efforts and coordinating donations of essential supplies to synagogues, community centers and families.

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Colleagues helping colleagues – Rabbi Margie Slome surrounded by, l to r, Rabbi Hara Person, Rabbi Amy Ehrlich, Cantorial Intern Amanda WInter, and Rabbi Steve Fox.

Rabbi Hara Person is the publisher and director of the CCAR Press.

Originally posted at RavBlog: Reform Rabbis Speak

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