For a guy with an invitation to the White House, Rabbi David Bauman is surprisingly modest.
“This is not about me,” he said, “It’s about what happened to this region.”
Bauman, of Temple Israel in Long Beach, will be attending a White House Chanukah ceremony on Dec. 13 hosted by President Obama. He and temple president Bruce Sklover, will head down to Washington D.C. next week with one of the temple’s iconic, seven-foot-tall brass menorahs in tow.
Bauman said that the Temple Israel menorah — one of a matched pair salvaged during the storm that has graced the temple’s pulpit for more than 90 years — was chosen to light the event as a symbol of Long Beach residents’ strength in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
“We’re representing [Long Beach.] That’s a very humbling situation to be in,” said Bauman.
Temple Israel, located at 305 Riverside Blvd., was the very first synagogue to open on the barrier island in 1920. It suffered extensive damage during Hurricane Sandy. The lower level of the facility is partially below ground, Bauman said, and the floodwaters in the temple reached 10 feet. Computers and desks were tossed around the classrooms, while the temple’s library, stocked with classic Jewish literature, was submerged. And six torah scrolls, along with many prayer books and prayer shawls, were lost, Bauman said.
The synagogue is still without power and heat and is undergoing extensive repairs. It just recently held Shabbat services for the first time since the storm with the use of a generator and temporary heating. Members of the temple remain largely displaced and scattered, with many not sure when they will be able to return to their homes.
Bauman said that residents’ struggle to overcome the storm’s devastation relates to the origins of the celebration of Chanukah.
“The story of the Maccabees is very much about the underdog becoming the victor, and reestablishing what’s right in the world,” said Bauman.
The White House, he said, is attempting to reflect those sentiments during its celebration. Bauman said that he believes Temple Israel was chosen to supply the one of the menorahs to serve as a symbol of hope.