FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — Even though a destructive hurricane had ravaged his community days earlier, nothing was going to stop Rabbi Yitzchok Minkowicz from holding prayer services Tuesday evening for the start of the holiest day on the calendar. Jewish.
Across southwest Florida devastated by Hurricane Ian, Jews planned to hold worship services for Yom Kippur, a day when they fast for 24 hours and ask forgiveness for the wrongs they have done. committed during the year, although many do so with drastically altered plans. by the storm.
Some congregations were skipping in-person attendance for the all-important Kol Nidre service on Tuesday evening, fearing it would be too dangerous to drive at night with debris piled on the roads and traffic lights turned off. Others held it in line.
At the Minkowicz Synagogue, Southwest Florida’s religiously traditional Chabad Lubavitch in Fort Myers, members planned a communal dinner before the fast began at sundown Tuesday, with the help of South Florida caterers. Florida, across the state. Some buildings on the 5-acre (2-hectare) campus were flooded. But the main building, where about 50 people sheltered during the hurricane, was relatively unscathed due to its higher elevation.
Power came back on Sunday night, and the campus turned into something of a community center, complete with food trucks and a food pantry. A large tent was erected in the parking lot where synagogue members – or anyone from the community – could stop for a meal.
“The most important thing we have is to make God happy,” Minkowicz said. “If God is happy, everything works out.”
At Temple Beth El in Fort Myers, worshipers planned to have in-person Yom Kippur services on Wednesday, with Kol Nidre services only available online Tuesday evening. However, plans were evolving within the congregation, which is part of the progressive reform movement, as utility trucks used the parking lot as a rest area for utility workers’ breaks. The trucks were to have left by Wednesday’s services.
Power was restored to the synagogue, whose property was littered with fallen trees and debris, but traffic lights were still out in the neighborhood, so Rabbi Nicole Luna said worshipers should heed their security when they decide to attend in person. Some of the more than 250 families in the congregation lost their homes.
“People are upset and need both resources and supplies, but also community and hope,” Luna said.
Rabbi Lawrence Dermer and his wife, Robin, decided not to hold a Kol Nidre service on Tuesday evening at their synagogue, Shalom Life Center, out of concern for the safety of their congregants. The evening service marks the beginning of the holiday with a sung prayer asking to be released from all obligations that cannot be fulfilled.
“We didn’t want to encourage anyone to go out after dark. The roads are dangerous and in some areas there is still a curfew,” said Lawrence Dermer, who leads the congregation, which welcomes members from all Jewish backgrounds.
The Shalom Life Center planned to hold day services on Wednesday, but skipped holding a traditional community “breakfast” Wednesday evening, when Jews indulged in bagels, lox, whitefish and other delicacies. basis after 24 hours without eating. This will be postponed for a few weeks, until the community comes out of storm crisis mode, Lawrence Dermer said.
The Fort Myers metropolitan area has about 7,500 Jews, and the Naples area further south has an additional 7,500, according to estimates published in the American Jewish Year Book 2020. Compared to other parts of the state, Southwest Florida’s Jewish community is relatively new, with the oldest congregation, Temple Beth El, formed only in 1954 with 22 families.
Rather than causing them to question their religious beliefs, the fierce storm renewed the faith of many in their congregation, said Lawrence Dermer and his wife. During the 10 days between the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Jews traditionally say to themselves, “May you be inscribed in the Book of Life”, in what is almost a plea that they be blessed with a another year of life.
“Yom Kippur is about the fragility of life. On the contrary, we have seen with Ian how precarious life is,” said Robin Dermer. “The meaning of Yom Kippur, of renewal and connection to God, will be deeper, not diminished.”
Schneider reported from Orlando, Florida. Giovanna Dell’Orto in Minneapolis contributed.
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For more AP coverage of Hurricane Ian: apnews.com/hub/hurricanes.