Rebuilding Belle Harbor With Optimism

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Sifrei Torah in Belle Harbor

By Larry Gordon

Among the seaside communities that bore the brunt of Hurricane Sandy last week was the pristine suburban Queens community of Belle Harbor. Hundreds of homes were flooded, and ten days after the storm electricity is still out throughout the community, with no specific indication from LIPA about when service will be restored.

The focus of the rebuilding effort for now is being directed at Congregation Ohab Zedek on Rockaway Beach Boulevard, under the dynamic leadership of Rabbi Tzvi Selengut the leading shul in the community. Twenty Torah scrolls were saved, while two sadly were buried earlier this week. The shul sustained over $1 million in damages.

“We have experienced an unprecedented disaster as a community,” said the rabbi in an e-mail to the community. “This is a time with many questions and very few answers. Our road ahead will be fraught with challenges, difficulties, and inevitably more questions. My tefillah for all of us is that we approach our journey rebuilding as we have everything else in our communal history—together as a family. We ‘Belle Harborites’ have an uncanny ability to persevere and be there for one another. This time will be no different—we will be there for every brick, every tear, and iy’H every celebration,” he said.

The shul’s longtime president, Stanley Liker, oversaw the rescue operation of the Torahs and was brought to tears upon the realization that two of the sifrei Torah could not be saved. In our conversation with Mr. Liker, he asked about the status and welfare of the Five Towns communities who while navigating their way through their own difficulties and challenges also reached out to assist in Belle Harbor.

For more information about the rebuilding of the shul and the community, write SLiker254@gmail.com. v

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