A Big Hanukah Party in a Small Trailer
By Anna Horowitz
Special To The Wave
Hanukah is observed for eight days, which begins with the twenty-fifth day of Kislev. The story of Hanukah, which goes back about twenty-four hundred years, is more about miracles than about military victory, albeit that it involved the first great war for religious freedom.
And here in a little town of Rockaway, twenty-four hundred years later, the Hanukah Party held at Congregation Derech Emunoh, which means the "Path of Faith" in Hebrew, was also in dedication to the memory of Bernard Blum, a devoted member, environmentalist and the late President of the Friends of Rockaway.
A tribute in his honor, built by Joyce Ashe, vice president, was displayed on the walls of the trailer, temporary home to Congregation Derech Emunoh. Articles, which Blum authored, as well as obituaries, articles and poems written by his friends add to the collection of many years of memories the shul has managed to preserve.
A painting of the original synagogue built in 1904, stands on the trailer's walls, right beside the entrance to this trailer along with graphic collages of previous Hanukahs and Purim parties. Bernard would have been proud to see that on such barren land and in spite of a fire that burned the physical structure of Congregation Derech Emunoh to the ground, the spirit, growth and purpose of this shul continues to flourish. Recall how nature manages to find a way to grow, of becoming alive, again, even after natural disaster hits, almost out of nothingness. Similarly, Congregation Derech Emunoh continues to "be", outliving the boundaries of time and space, at every turn.
The party gave members a chance to eat, sing, dance, win many prizes and socialize with one another.
Abe Mintz, formerly of Temple of Israel in Rockaway Beach, who came with his wife, Sylvia Heller, sang the "Hava Nagilah".
Morris Singer who sang a song from "Fiddler on the Roof." Morris so humbly admitted when he finished that he was suffering from Alzheimer's at 87 years old. And what a voice he had.
Cantor Chaim Gerson Schnidler sang, while his wife, Gayle, daughter, Chaya Kayla and nine-month old son, Shimon Efraim, listened in awe. His family resides in Far Rockaway and he joins Congregation Derech Emunoh for the High Holy Days, serving as Chazzin.
Last, but not least, the son of Rabbi Heshy Rubenstein's (spiritual leader of Congregation D.E.) sang. Yossi, age 23, had flown in from Israel, where he is studying rabbinical law at Yeshiva of Mir in Jerusalem. He sang a paragraph from the Talmud called "Tanya."
My eyes caught the face of a woman, Estelle Herman, and this brought back fond memories of her daughter, Ruth Sonner, who used to baby-sit for my son, Adam nearly two decades ago.
And while all this was going on members helped themselves to latkes, bow ties with sautéd onions, noodle pudding and vegetable medley. Mitchell Greenblatt, a member of the minyan and a professional chef, prepares the food for the congregation - kiddish, Passover Seder and for all the simchas.
We danced to the Hassidic rhythms provided by Shlomo Genzler, who lives in Brooklyn and plays at Bar Mitzvahs and other religious occasions.
Esther Rabinowitz, who came with her husband, Arthur, was the shul's choreographer. She showed our circle of women the steps to the Miserlou Music (Never on Sunday). And our feet just couldn't stop dancing. They were offered some relief, however, when Rabbi Heshy Rubenstein announced that all men would do the final dance in their own circle.
Rabbi Heshy Rubenstein was awarded a Certificate of Honor for his outstanding service as Rabbi from 2002 to the Present.