Long Beach menorah that survived Sandy heads to White House

Rabbi David Bauman of Temple Israel of Long Rabbi David Bauman of Temple Israel of Long Beach poses behind a menorah that survived superstorm Sandy and will now be taken to the White House for their Chanukah celebrations. (Dec. 10, 2012) Photo Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa

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A 90-year-old menorah that survived superstorm Sandy in Long Beach is heading to the White House for its annual Hanukkah party hosted by President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama.

Temple Israel was devastated in the storm, but two 7-foot-tall brass menorahs survived, said Rabbi David Bauman. The White House has asked him to bring one for the party this Thursday at 5 p.m., he said.

"I am overwhelmed and humbled by it," Bauman said Monday. "It's such an honor."

His synagogue, established in 1920 and the oldest in Long Beach, suffered $5 million worth of damage in the storm, with at least 10 feet of salt water flooding the building on Riverside Boulevard.

"It's about my synagogue, but even more so, it's about the entire region and the idea that the White House recognizes that significant devastation took place to people of all faiths across the country and in this region," he said.

Monday, the menorah was being prepped for the trip to Washington, D.C., which he said he will make Wednesday by car with synagogue president Bruce Sklover.

Bauman said the White House apparently learned about the menorah through its contacts with Jewish organizations in New York City with whom the rabbi had discussed the synagogue's efforts to rebuild even though, as a religious institution, it may not qualify for government aid.

A White House spokesman Monday night confirmed the menorah would be on display during the party.

The synagogue still lacks electricity and heat, and held its first religious service a week ago using a generator and portable heater, he said.

Floodwaters during the storm tossed computers and desks around classrooms, and left the synagogue's library, stocked with classic Jewish literature, submerged, Bauman said. Six Torah scrolls, along with prayer books and prayer shawls, were destroyed.

Bauman said bringing the menorah to the White House fits well with some of the main themes of Hanukkah, which is also known as the "Festival of Lights" and celebrates the triumph of light over dark and hope over despair.

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