A 90-year-old menorah from a temple on Long Island that was ravaged by Hurricane Sandy will be displayed at a Hanukkah party hosted by President Obama as a symbol of perseverance and hope for the holidays.
The brass menorah survived a 10-foot storm surge that destroyed a chapel, a library, numerous religious books and six Torah scrolls at Temple Israel in Long Beach, according to the congregation’s rabbi, David S. Bauman.
Rabbi Bauman said the White House contacted him about two weeks ago seeking a menorah that survived the storm’s onslaught. He said he took a photograph of the menorah, one of two that were located on the upper floor of the temple’s sanctuary, and sent it to a White House official.
“The next thing I know I’m talking to the White House curator and the Secret Service,” he said. “It’s an incredibly humbling experience.”
The White House was led to Rabbi Bauman’s congregation by the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, an organization that helped communities in New York City and on Long Island in Hurricane Sandy’s aftermath. The group informed the White House about the menorah at Temple Israel.Rabbi Bauman, 41, who is also a reserve chaplain in the Marine Corps, will travel with the menorah to Washington for the Hanukkah party, which will be held on Thursday.
The White House has a tradition of selecting menorahs with some kind of meaningful history. Last year, the menorah displayed at the Hanukkah party was one built at a displaced persons camp in Europe after World War II. In 2010, officials selected a menorah salvaged from a synagogue destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.
“The Hanukkah story and the story of recovery from a hurricane are not dissimilar,” said Jarrod Bernstein, the White House director for Jewish outreach and a Long Island native, who helped arrange this year’s selection. Though not entirely the same, he said, “the spirit of reconstituting and re-sanctifying is still there.”
The seven-foot menorah will honor not only the 200 or so congregants of Temple Israel, but also everyone affected by the storm, Mr. Bernstein said.
The party will be a brief respite for Rabbi Bauman from the continuing cleanup work at his temple. The structure, which opened in 1923, sustained about $5 million worth of damage. He said it took 72 hours to pump out the seawater and another six weeks to clean up. There is still no power, though Rabbi Bauman has now installed generators allowing him to open the temple to congregants on Saturday mornings.
After attending the White House party, Rabbi Bauman will return to continue restoring his synagogue, juggling insurance claims and seeking donations for repairs. It is a daunting task, he said, but one he said he was committed to completing.
“The story of Hanukkah is about the underdog becoming victorious,” he said. “And that’s our goal. We will rebuild.”
Source: NY Times