Community News

After Sandy wreaks havoc, Temple Israel's rebuilt Hebrew school celebrates a new day


Temple Israel of South Merrick, at 2655 Clubhouse Road, reopened the Evan Kravitz Hebrew School on Monday, five months after Hurricane Sandy inundated it with four feet of destructive saltwater.

The temple marked the occasion with a small ribbon-cutting ceremony on Monday afternoon, just hours after the Merrick Senior Center, which is less than a quarter mile away on Clubhouse Road and was also shuttered because of Hurricane Sandy’s floodwaters, reopened its doors with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Monday morning.

Rabbi Scott Hoffman, Temple Israel’s rabbi, said that other parts of Temple Israel escaped the worst of Hurricane Sandy’s ravages, but the wing containing the Hebrew school sits on slightly lower ground, which promoted flooding there during the Oct. 29 storm.

“The water destroyed the furniture and many, though not all, of the books and supplies,” Hoffman said. “It destroyed the walls and the floors. Radiators and electrical outlets had to be replaced. The damage was extensive.”

He estimated the cost of repairs to the temple at more than $50,000.

Temple Israel reopened about two weeks after Hurricane Sandy wrecked havoc on the tri-state area, but its Hebrew school, for children in third to seventh grades, and Sunday school, for children in kindergarten to second grade, had to relocate to different areas of the temple.

“There is some amount of disruption from not being able to meet in the usual classroom,” Hoffman said. “The students mostly handled it maturely, which was nice to see.”

It took months of remediation and reconstruction work to restore the Hebrew school’s six classrooms to their former condition.

Hoffman said that the temple’s first step was to get Hurricane Sandy’s floodwaters pumped out of the building in the first few days immediately following the storm. He said volunteers from the temple spent the next few days sorting through the Hebrew school classrooms’ contents — rescuing some items and discarding others, depending on their condition — and then contractors worked from December to the end of March to gut and rebuild the rooms.

Hoffman expressed thanks to the Park Avenue Synagogue, at 50 E. 87th St. in Manhattan, for donating money toward Temple Israel’s rebuilding costs.