Church fills in on High Holy Days


A burst pipe and a flooded temple could have been a disaster for the Jewish Center of Island Park congregation during the High Holy Days, if not for the swift assistance offered by the Sacred Heart Catholic Church and the Rev. John Tutone.

When the Jewish Center’s co-president, Steve Diamond, arrived at the temple on Sept. 16 after getting a call about a water leak, he realized that the services for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur could not be held there. “A pipe had burst because of a faulty valve,” Diamond explained. “There was six inches of water, and the floors and wall were damaged.”

Diamond said that he and other Jewish Center leaders were especially distressed because this would be the first celebration of the High Holy Days with the Long Beach congregation of Temple Beth Shalom, which has merged with the Jewish Center. So they walked down the street to speak with Tutone and explained the situation. According to Diamond, Tutone immediately offered the use of the Sacred Heart parish center for the temple’s New Year services on Sept. 17.

Tutone also called the local Fire Department and some of his parishioners to ask for their help in cleaning the parish center, which had recently been used to celebrate the Feast of San Gennaro. The Jewish congregation used a pickup truck to transport 250 seats to the parish center.

A phone bank was set up, and an email blast was sent out to inform the congregation about the changes to the services.

“We’re really blessed,” Diamond said. “We only had about 12 hours to turn it around and make it happen. We worked throughout Sunday to make it happen.”

The services went off without a hitch, Diamond said, with nearly 250 in attendance for the first one.

“They went over — far and beyond — anything we expected,” Diamond said of Sacred Heart. “Everyone was ecstatic, and they gave Father Tutone a standing ovation when he was introduced. No one felt out of place, which is a very warm feeling with the community coming together.”

“I know people are very much surprised,” Tutone said. “But here in our community, it’s really more the norm. We have a mantra: if my neighbor is celebrating, that makes me happy. For us here, we feel this is the way it should be.”

The second services were also held in the Sacred Heart Church, and Yom Kippur services were scheduled there as well.