Torah parade brings shuls together in E.M.

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Roughly 100 people marched from North Bellmore to East Meadow last Sunday to celebrate the consolidation of the closed Temple Beth-El of Bellmore and the East Meadow Jewish Center. The 2.6 miles were joyous ones for the members of the two synagogues, who completed the route in one hour and 10 minutes. The new East Meadow Beth-El Jewish Center has grown from the consolidation to 400 individual or family memberships.

Some people living in East Meadow and North Bellmore appeared to enjoy watching the “Torah procession.” When members of the Nassau County Police Department closed Bellmore Road and other streets on the route to vehicles, a number of residents left their homes to watch the celebration, with many clapping and cheering. 

“People came out of their houses and waved at us, a few with quizzical expressions,” said Todd Knauer, a former president of the East Meadow Jewish Center who is now the co-president of the new synagogue. “Rabbi [Ronald] Androphy left the march to explain to them what was going on. This was about the spirit of being Jewish and carrying the torah.”

Singing songs in Hebrew, Androphy and Cantor Eitan Binet led the procession, for which participants wore royal blue T-shirts with the logo “Consolidation Celebration.” People took turns carrying the five Torahs, sacred scrolls outlining the “law of God.”

“We didn’t want to let our synagogue die,” said Ira Minkoff, Beth-El’s former president and now a co-president of the East Meadow Beth-El Jewish Center. Having grown up near the Bellmore synagogue, he remained a member of Beth-El, even after he moved to East Meadow. “We decided to find a new home instead,” Minkoff said.

According to Minkoff, the temple closed on July 1, 2019, because the building was failing and membership was waning

The consolidation was not official until last Oct. 23, when the Nassau County Supreme Court signed the order, which is required by law for a consolidation. Covid-19 was cited as the reason for the delay.

Knauer said the wait for the procession until August was intentional. It was decided that the new Jewish year, which begins next week with Rosh Hashana, would be an appropriate time for a celebration. 

“We were looking for a time that would make the procession even more meaningful and symbolic,” he explained, “in addition to the symbolism of joining the two congregations and bringing the Torahs to their new home.”

For the former members of Temple Beth-El, the wait was bittersweet. “Covid ended up being positive because the wait allowed for us to heal and be a part of the congregation [at East Meadow Jewish Center],” Minkoff said. “It was cathartic.”

“And participating in the Torah procession was emotional,” he added. “What I love about this community is that it has multiple cultures without strife.”

Androphy said he could not be happier. “The consolidation has been and is a marriage made in heaven,” he said. “The spirit of togetherness was palpable, whether during the march with the Torahs or whenever we have come together in the sanctuary. I think everyone feels this way.”

A number of older adults took part, either on foot or in wheelchairs or in one of five convertibles.

Several elected leaders took part Sunday too, either by walking in the procession, as Nassau County Legislator Tom McKevitt did, or on the bimah, a platform in a synagogue from which the Torah and Prophets are read. County Executive Laura Curran, Town of Hempstead Supervisor Donald Clavin and Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder were among the invited guests who spoke.

“The day was tinged with a little sadness from those from Beth-El but being united makes us stronger,” Androphy said. “Yesterday showed that we are one under a new name.”

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