Hurricane Mitch Levels Synagogue in Honduras

Members of the tiny Jewish community of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, were proud when earlier this year they were able to make the final payments on the small house that serves as their synagogue.

The members of Communidar Evreya B’Tegucigalpa also purchased prayer books and an air-conditioning unit and installed a bimah, or dais.

“We were very happy,” said Rosario Losk, a member of the shul.

Now, as a result of Hurricane Mitch, the 30 or so Jewish families who belong to the synagogue have to rebuild that structure, which has been completely decimated. Everything was destroyed, save for one of the two Torahs that were brought to Honduras by immigrants from Germany shortly before World War II.

Mitch, which packed 180-mile-an-hour winds at its peak, ravaged much of Central America, killing as many as 7,000, according to early estimates. It did most of its damage in Nicaragua and Honduras, which first saw Jewish immigrants in the 1920s and again in the years surrounding World War II.

No one in the synagogue’s congregation, mostly members of the city’s well-to- do, perished, according to Losk. But many suffered great damage to their property — even though the city lies in the Honduran hills and has never before had problems with floods, she said.

Mitch’s rains and winds raised water in local rivers and forced the collapse of all of the city’s bridges. The water eventually overflowed over the banks, causing trees to fall and buildings, including the shul, to crumble.

“We lost everything,” said Losk, whose husband, who currently works for the U.S. government in Ethiopia, used to be the synagogue’s president.

While details are still sketchy, early reports indicated that members of Jewish communities in the rest of Central America were not affected as severely by the storm.

On Tuesday, some members of the Jewish community were scheduled to hold a service to ask for God’s help in rebuilding the synagogue. One member was drawing up plans for the new structure.

“We need everything because we want to begin rebuilding right away. We feel very strongly that a synagogue should never remain in ruins. We want our synagogue to be alive and well,” said Losk.

Contributions for victims of Hurricane Mitch can be sent to:

Central American Relief; American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee; 711 Third Ave.; New York, N.Y. 10017

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