7 Months After the Storm a Temple Rebuilds
On Thursday morning I had the pleasure of taking several members of the URJ Board to visit West End Temple in Neponsit, New York. As you might recall, the Temple took the brunt of Hurricane Sandy and was flooded with nearly five feet of water. The impact was devastating –damage estimates to the building were in the millions! – but even worse was the displacement of many of the congregation’s families, businesses lost, and entire communities taken to the brink.
As an outsider, I remember watching the reports come in. We all knew it was bad, but until the storm had cleared nobody could have ever estimated just how devastating it had been. As we learned of West End’s story (and so many others like it), the Reform community was spurred to action. The Reform Movement didn’t just raise $800,000 for the relief effort; we sent hundreds of volunteers from as far away as the West Coast into the disaster zone. Congregations in Florida packed trailers with life-saving supplies and delivered them to the hardest hit areas. Many of New York City’s Reform congregations opened their doors to those who did not have power or heat, providing shelter, charging stations for electronics and (literally) calm after the storm.
And now comes the great news: Despite the tragedy and the seemingly endless task of rebuilding, today – Friday, May 31 – marks a major milestone in West End Temple’s recovery process. For the first time since Hurricane Sandy, Shabbat services will be held in their building. Not in the trailer which sits in their parking lot. Not in a congregant’s home or in a park. In their actual building. The sanctuary may not be in working order (it still doesn’t have a floor…), the kitchen may still be months from functional, but the community has reclaimed some of its sacred space in no small part thanks to you – the Reform Jewish community.
West End Temple could have been your synagogue or mine. Hurricane Sandy could have been a tornado, wildfire or earthquake. When tragedy strikes, human nature brings us together, and the Reform Movement shines when we come together. It’s an amazing thing to belong to something larger than we are as individuals and congregations. Indeed, it’s what makes us Reform Jews.
If you are interested in supporting the URJ’s Disaster Relief fund, donations are accepted year round at www.urj.org/relief