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Sands Point synagogue donates furniture to Sandy-hit temple

Susan Greenbaum, project manager at the West End

Susan Greenbaum, project manager at the West End Temple in Far Rockaway, stands by the furniture that was donated to them by a Port Washington synagogue. The temple was severely damaged by superstorm Sandy. (July 12, 2013) Credit: Alejandra Villa

Since superstorm Sandy decimated her Queens synagogue, Rabbi Marjorie Slome has had to sing her praises to heaven from behind an old music stand.

A timely donation of ritual furniture from a Long Island synagogue will soon provide her a new platform from which to worship.

The Community Synagogue of Port Washington, a 700-family Reform congregation in Sands Point that is in the midst of renovation, last week gave its heavy wooden bimah furniture to the West End Temple in Neponsit, on the Rockaway peninsula.

The furniture -- a lectern and Torah table for the rabbi, a podium for the cantor, a Torah stand for the sacred scroll and a kiddush table to hold the ritual candles and wine cup for Shabbat services -- replaces what was destroyed in the 5 feet of water that overtook the temple during Sandy.

"It's going to be perfect for us," Slome said. "At this juncture, we're sort of makeshift."

Members of The Community Synagogue had been volunteering at the Reform West End Temple and other South Shore synagogues after the Oct. 29 storm, so the donation seemed a natural fit, said Rabbi Irwin Zeplowitz of the Sands Point synagogue.

"It really works out," he said. "Frankly, we're thrilled that it's going to continue to be used for a sacred purpose."

The furniture dates to the congregation's most recent renovation, about 20 years ago, said Joanne Fried, executive director of The Community Synagogue. "We weren't planning on selling it, and we were hoping not to discard it," Fried said. "This was the perfect way to give it new life."

For now, the furniture is in storage at the West End Temple and will eventually be placed temporarily in its social hall, where congregants from the 90-family temple have been gathering to pray since Sandy, said Susan Greenbaum, the group's project director.

The donation means scarce synagogue resources can be devoted elsewhere, such as replacing the building's damaged heating and air-conditioning units and making sure the building is impervious to leaks, in addition to rebuilding, Greenbaum said.

It wasn't the only gift from Long Island. Earlier, Temple Beth Elohim in Old Bethpage, which this month merged with a Syosset synagogue, donated a portable ark -- an enclosure that holds the Torah scrolls -- to the West End Temple.

"It's really a reminder, I guess, to all of our congregants how generous other congregations were to us," Slome said.

Those donations have been coupled with help from regional and national Jewish agencies, Slome said.

"It takes a global village to help our tiny little temple," she said. "We're just grateful to be part of a bigger Jewish community that cares about us."

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