Blocks away from the Atlantic Ocean and even further from Sheepshead Bay, the proprietors of the Mazel Day School and synagogue in Brighton Beach were not concerned about flooding when Hurricane Sandy hit the coast.
Confident that their Torah scroll, tucked away in an elevated safe, would not be harmed, Rabbi Hershel Okonov and his staff decided to leave the important book in its place until the storm calmed. But the floodwater from the bay defied their calculations and wreaked havoc on the two adjacent structures.
“We had six to six and a half feet of water in the school and another five feet of water in the shul,” Okonov told VIN News.
Though the safe remained partially above water level, the Torah scroll was nonetheless soaked. It was unrolled and laid out to dry on the synagogue benches. Several of the pages were severely damaged.
“On some of the panels you can see that the damage is very severe,” Okonov said. “Others are in better condition. Repairing the Sefer Torah is a long process and we don’t even know if it can be done, but we are going to take it step by step and then give it to sofrim who are professionals in restoration.”
“It hurts that this happened because we could have saved it, but we are far from the ocean and even farther from the bay,” he said. “We never dreamed that anything like this could happen here. Even if it costs more to repair this Sefer Torah than to buy a new one, we will do our best to restore this scroll because every Sefer Torah deserves to be saved."
Mazel Day School is a private Jewish preschool and elementary school in Brooklyn, New York. The school's motto is "Instilling a Love for Learning and the Joy of Judaism."