Act Of God Hits Houses Of God


An unusual early summer storm disrupted Shabbat services at many Great Neck, L.I., synagogues last weekend and did considerable damage to the front of Great Neck Synagogue.

The brief storm last Thursday afternoon brought 100-mile-per-hour winds, heavy rain and large hail to the area, leaving most roads impassable and the community without electric power. According to the National Weather Service, the damage was caused by a microburst, a strong downdraft including an outburst of potentially damaging winds.

Great Neck Synagogue, an Orthodox congregation on Old Mill Road, suffered damage when three large trees smashed into the front of the building, cracking brick and cement work and punching several holes through the roof.

“A tree limb went right through the youth center,” said Executive Director Mark Twersky. Another falling tree disrupted a gas line, causing National Grid to shut off gas service to the building. Twersky said it was too early to estimate damage.

The congregation rented generators so that a bar mitzvah with 500 people in attendance on Saturday morning could take place as scheduled. “There were no lights, and it was hot,” Twersky said, “but with fans in the sanctuary and lanterns in the bathrooms, we got through Shabbat reasonably well.”

At neighboring Temple Israel of Great Neck, also on Old Mill Road, Shabbat services for approximately 200 people were held outside, in the Conservative congregation’s courtyard. “Not having power in our building presented a challenge, but also presented a very nice opportunity,” said Senior Rabbi Howard A. Stecker. “Holding our Friday minyan outdoors as the sun was going down was very lovely.”

Associate Rabbi Seth Adelson told the congregation in his Shabbat sermon that “some see acts of God as a sign that God is angry with us. I don’t buy into that theory,” he said. “When a disaster strikes, people want explanations.” He said his discussion centered on what this disorder means and how to put it into a framework of religion.

Young Israel of Great Neck, on Middle Neck Road, which lost power for two days following the storm, prepared for Shabbat services and a bar mitzvah using flashlights, according to Executive Director Shoshana Agus. Power was restored before the service began and the bar mitzvah took place as scheduled, she said. Her car didn’t fare as well, however. It was severely damaged by falling trees in the congregation’s parking lot.

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