HOUSTON - The Jewish New Year begins Wednesday, yet one of the largest temples in the country cannot use its facility because Hurricane Harvey left more than a foot of water inside the building.
“This is the first time in our congregation’s history, since we moved to this site in 1962, that we took on water,” said David Rosen, senior rabbi of Congregation Beth Yeshurun in Meyerland. “It wasn’t just a room or a series of rooms. Every square inch of the temple flooded.”
He said no scripture and no flood story could have prepared him for the water that cascaded into the temple on Beechnut.
“This is for thousands of Jewish people in Houston, their home,” said Rabbi Rosen “It’s their spiritual home, their second home.”
The flood left more than 2,000 families without a home to worship for the high holidays - the most important time of year on the Jewish calendar.
“It’s very hard to be out of our temple,” Rosen said. “There’s a lot of emotion that is captured in this sanctuary. We’ve had people who for 50 years have been sitting in the same seats.”
Instead, congregants will be sitting in seats normally reserved for Sunday worship at Lakewood Church.
“I cannot thank Joel Osteen enough for his sensitivity and his encouragement,” said Rosen, adding that Osteen stepped in to offer the entire place and his staff for the occasion. “It’s a reaffirmation of the beautiful spirit of collegiality and interfaith conversation we have here in Houston.”
Rabbi Rosen is also dealing with repairs on his Bellaire home that took on more than a foot of water during Harvey
“It’s been the greatest challenge of my career and probably my life,” he said. “If anything has come out of this, it’s the extraordinary resilience of our community and congregation.”
People attending services will have to take a bus from the temple in Meyerland to Lakewood because it’s a normal workday Thursday and Friday in Greenway Plaza.
The Rabbi said Pastor Osteen plans to talk during services Thursday morning.
Beth Yeshurun has partnered with Congregation Brith Shalom where they can continue their worship services on a regular basis.