For family displaced by Sandy, seder at the temple suffices

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No pot roast and no sponge cake were served this Passover in the Feig house in the canals area of Long Beach.

They, like many of their neighbors, have not been able to return to their Sandy-damaged homes; but for Jews like the Feigs, a central aspect of the eight days of Passover are the ritual seder meals that are usually eaten at home with family and friends.

Carole and William Feig, still living in a hotel room, said they ate a private meal Monday on the first night of Passover, and went to a community seder last night at Temple Emanu-El of Long Beach.

"Thank God for the temple," Carole Feig, 74, said last week as she fussed around her cold house on Barnes Street. "I'll survive. But it's a sad thing."

Their home was flooded when superstorm Sandy pushed salt water into the streets of their neighborhood, which has four narrow canals poking into the streets of Long Beach from Reynolds Channel on the north side of the city.

The new, single oven arrived recently and it sits against the wall of the partially renovated kitchen in the partly renovated house where she and her husband, William, 62, traditionally have had their Passover seder.

"I miss my old oven. It was a double oven: pot roast in the top and sponge cake on the bottom," Carole Feig said as she stood under the new kitchen spotlights that still dangled by their wiring, waiting to be secured to the ceiling.

They have been living at the Allegria Hotel in Long Beach since Sandy hit, and were one of the 423 displaced families statewide still living in hotels Friday, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which foots the hotel bill.

Passover is a rare holiday among the world's religions in that it is centered in the home instead of the church, or temple or mosque, according to Rabbi Tuvia Teldon, the chief Chabad-Lubavitch representative on Long Island.

"The centerpiece is the home and family, and is something that is distinct and powerful about the Jewish tradition," Teldon said.

The number of Jewish people on Long Island who are still not able to live and eat in their own homes could not be established. Rabbi Chaim Wakslak of Young Israel of Long Beach said he thinks about 25 families in his congregation are affected, but the synagogue decided against a community seder because it "loses that flavor of being home-centered."

The UJA Federation, which runs a seder-finder service on its website, said it had seen a surge in use this year, but could not attribute it to Sandy. It had 4,274 hits as of late Friday, up 45 percent from last year, and 37 percent of the people who filled out the online demographic form indicated they lived on Long Island, the charitable agency said.

Things should be back to normal by Passover next year, Feig said, but the slow progress in negotiating with relief agencies, government agencies, mortgage holders and insurance companies has left her uneasy.

"We'll get the house back," she said. "I just wonder when."

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