Last Shabbos, Parashas Vayishlach, Congregation Ohab Zedek celebrated its first Shabbos back in Belle Harbor following Hurricane Sandy. Although the shul building was badly damaged and remains uninhabitable, community members gathered in Belle Harbor and held minyanim and shiurim at a private home. It was truly moving to see people that have known each other for decades reunite after a lengthy displacement. While most have not yet been able to move back home, a handful of people that have been able to move back to their houses opened their homes to guests.
The davening and shiurim on Shabbos were characterized by a special excitement and joy. One shul-goer commented, “We all feel so traumatized after this terrible experience, this Shabbos was the best therapy there is. I think we all really feel that there is hope now.”
Rabbi Tsvi Selengut, the mara d’asra, gave a moving derashah comparing the bravery of the Belle Harbor community to that of Yaakov Avinu, who kept fighting even after being injured by Eisav’s malach. “We, too,” Rabbi Selengut continued, “were hit hard by Sandy’s fury, but here we are only a few weeks later. With the strength of Yaakov, we have overcome.”
At a kiddush following davening, everyone shared their hurricane experiences with one another. At seudah shelishis, the room was filled with the famous zemiros and niggunim that have been sung at Ohab Zedek for decades.
Rebbetzin Tali Selengut summed up Shabbos best: “We cried and we laughed, but most importantly, we came home.”
In the coming weeks, Ohab Zedek will be operating out of a large trailer that has been set up in the shul parking lot. With the help of Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder, the trailer has been equipped with electricity and plumbing. Ohab Zedek plans on moving back into its majestic building after the nearly $1 million of damage is repaired. Funding is direly needed for the upkeep of the trailer as well as for the damage that the shul building sustained. To donate, visit Ohabzedek.net and click “donations” or e-mail Rabbi Tsvi Selengut at firstname.lastname@example.org.