Sometimes, no news is the best news. When asked how he had fared during Hurricane Irene, Rabbi Levi Block apologized.
“I’m sorry, I have nothing exciting for you,” said the leader of the Union County Torah Center in Westfield, adding that, of course, he was grateful for that.
Rabbi Yitzchok Moully of the Chabad Center of Basking Ridge also reported smooth sailing, but not everyone was as lucky. At the Jewish Educational Center in Elizabeth, the waters rose way too high for comfort.
“On the Elmora campus, the sub-basement boiler room is totally under water,” reported Steve Karp, the JEC’s executive director, on Monday afternoon. “We’re talking over 10 feet.”
As the cleanup effort began late Sunday and the East Coast began to return to some semblance of normalcy on Monday, synagogues and institutions began to assess the damage from the storm and, in many cases, count their blessings. While some 40 deaths in 10 states were attributed to Irene, no synagogues reported much damage except for power outages and some minor flooding.
It was easier to cancel regular synagogue events than family simhas. Sue Goldstein of Warren said her family had planned a long-awaited reunion. One cousin had already arrived from Israel, so some were able to enjoy her company, but the big gathering had to be canceled. She was counting her blessings though, with just one downed tree in their garden.
At least one family at Temple Beth Ahm Yisrael in Springfield had to find shelter at another congregant’s home, and another’s car was severely damaged by a fallen tree, according to Rabbi Mark Mallach.
Another family elected to postpone a Saturday bat mitzva until Monday afternoon, and Sunday’s morning minyan and a wedding scheduled for that afternoon had to be canceled, he reported.
Even before the storm struck, the Jewish community attempted to prepare for the worst, with Jewish officials offering both practical and religious counsel in preparation for the hurricane.
The Orthodox website Vos Iz Neias posted halachic guidelines issued years ago by the Orthodox Union, Agudath Israel of America, and others for what to do on the Sabbath in the event of a hurricane.
Among other things, the guidelines specify that one may leave a radio on in a room of the house that is not generally used if there is concern for safety.