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Puerto Rico Synagogue Survives Wrath of Georges

Shaare Zedeck Congregation in Puerto Rico purchased a back-up generator following last year’s electrical blackout on Yom Kippur.

Now, exactly one year later, that purchase will come in handy: That generator allowed Shaare Zedeck, San Juan’s largest shul, to hold services this week.

Like the rest of the island, the congregation, which serves San Juan’s Jewish community of about 1,800, suffered from the wrath of Hurricane Georges.

After services on Rosh Hashanah eve were held as scheduled Sept. 20, services the next morning were held at 7 a.m. so that residents had time to go home and prepare for the storm.

The rescheduling was a good idea. By 2 p.m. that day, Georges hit the island, and the storm continued all day and into the night.

The next day’s services were canceled, the first time that Jewish residents of the U.S. commonwealth can remember that happening.

Trees at the synagogue, which stands near San Juan’s tourist district were uprooted “like toothpicks,” according to the congregation’s rabbi, Alfredo Winter, and there is damage to the roof, which now leaks.

And, like much of the capital, the synagogue has been without electricity and water for more than a week.

But the building was spared some of the devastation that hit high-rise apartments across the street.

The synagogue’s Torah, stored in the lower floors of the building, emerged unscathed.

“Physically, we consider ourselves really fortunate,” said Winter.

And despite the destruction that Georges, which made its way to the U.S. mainland this week, Winter said there’s a lesson to be learned: Cherish the present.

“Everything can be there and gone the next minute,” he said.

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