Thursday, August 24, 2006

Diary of a Crummy Day

Wednesday was just such a lousy day,.. I have a client who is driving me nuts... another one who didnt get paid money that was rightfully his, and another one in FL has an appraisor who is up to some kind of monkey business that transcends the lunacy of hanging chads. All I do is put out fires..

Last night I went to sleep and I said.. Thursday will be a better day... So far.. not the case.

My Wife called me this morning to tell me that the Temple is on fire. According to the latest news reports.. the blaze started in the basement and a major part of the building has smoke damage. Most importantly nobody was in the building at the time so there are no injuries or deaths.. and the sacred Torah scrolls including the ones salvaged from the Holocaust after World War II have also been safely removed.

As you know I met my wife there in that very building on December 29, 2001.. I was speaking to my friend Carrie there after services one day (and she just got engaged last week!) and this cute girl came walking over to us... You gotta like a synagogue that helps you meet your wife!! Everytime we drive by or walk by.. I always say to her.. "I met the most beautiful girl in the world in that building"... at which point she runs down a list of every woman in Sisterhood and/or Haddasah in a goofy attempt to guess which woman I am referring to.

During lunch today I drove over to see the building. I had to park a few blocks away because the road was closed off. I passed some of the older members who were sitting on a bench looking at the building. Today, I didn't make any comment about meeting the most beautiful girl there... but silently stood there as the stench of smoke was very obvious. The building is still there.. the stained glass windows in the sanctuary are still there.. but there is a lot of smoke damage in the back of the building. Later tonight there will be a temple meeting at the local Y and I am sure we will hear the battle plan of what will be happening.

I had seen the early media reports about the blaze and the Rabbi has already done what he should... he announced that we will bounce back. And we will.. I dont know if that is a Jewish thing.. but its a human thing. We're like weebles.. we wobble but we dont fall down.. and if we do.. we get right back up. We survived Pogroms, The Holocaust and terror in NY and Israel. 3 heroic Israeli soldiers remain missing probably in Iran, and Israel fights to get them back.. yet misguided liberals who are more concerned with the Plight of the Hezbollah cause us to fight an unnecesary PR war.. . Do we let that get us down? No... we dont. We always recover after we fall!

I originally started going to the Highland Park Conservative Temple and Center in 1997 so I am relatively new to the Temple family. My mom had moved to Edison, after living in Roselle for 30 years. A few weeks after the move, it was time for the Yizkor Memorial Services so it was time to find a new synagogue. The first place I went to didnt have services so I x'ed that one out... and I decided to venture off to HP. Amazingly it was a weekday and the place was full! After that... that was where I would go for services.. including the High Holy Days..

Just before the 1999 Holy Days.... which were a bit too soon after Labor Day... (unlike 1994 when they started labor day night.. and jerry Lewis sang "You will never walk alone... to shul!"), I went to purchase tickets and politely asked if I could not be seated behind an extremely tall gentleman who had blocked my view the year before. On the first day of the Holy days.. I turn around to leave my seat and there approaching me was the same very tall guy! As he walked right to me, I froze in fear wondering if the woman in the office repeated my seating request to him. "Hey".. he said.. "that was fun playing frisbee last wknd at the Y Camps!".. It turned out he had been at a singles weekend at the Y Camps and we had tossed a frisbee around... I didnt realize that this tall dude at the singles wknd was the same view blocker from 1998.. These tall people all look the same to me.. and as it turns out we have been good buddies ever since!

I started going there with more regularity in 2001. My mother died that August and I moved into her condo in October. I was saying kaddish on a daily basis and started to go to their nightly services where I became friendly with the gang of regulars at the nightly minyan. It was only because I was saying Kaddish that i went to services that fateful December 29th.. We know another couple that is getting married later this year.. and they also met at the Temple.

We have also made a lot of terrific friends there.. and as was the case with my prior synagogue in Linden... you start to form a lot of happy memories.. I always think of Saturday morning services as a long running musical.. it takes place each and every weekend and even if you attend services in LA or FL or Mexico or Israel,... the songs are the same and you form a comfort level with those familiar tunes.

Tonight a temple-wide meeting was held at the local Y... and thanks to Channel 7 for realizing that this is an important news story... and we were updated on the status of the building. According to the engineer who toured the scene.. structurally the building is still very sound so we don't have to worry about that. However, the interior in the area of the sanctuary sustained major damage. The Temple President got an early morning call from the alarm company and when he stepped into the sanctuary to see what was going on... he could see the flames shooting up through the floor from the basement below. Kudos to the heroic firefighters.. many who were at the Y tonight... for a job well done.. According to those on the scene, they did everything they could to keep the stained glass windows intact.. But as the Rabbi said when the media interviewed him in the early morning hours.. it is time now to rebuild and one day down the road the building will be back to its old self.

Next weekend is Labor Day... and we are all going to go away and have fun. Every weekend my wife and I go to the ATM and take out "weekend fun money". Maybe just maybe the readers of this blog might want to consider setting aside some of that "fun money".. maybe the cost of a few drinks.. maybe the amount they would spend on a dinner out, maybe they spend for funnel cakes at Point Pleasant, or even the cost of a new frisbee. Or we just might want to match that "Labor Day weekend fun money" with money that can go to another good cause.. Operation Temple Restoration. Maybe one day a goofy guy like me can go there for services and end up meeting his wife.

Y'know they say a synagogue is a house of worship.. but in reality.. it is a Home for Worshippers. It is a structure that protects us from the pouring rain storms, and is there for us when someone dies and you must say Kaddish even though you are a mourner and don't want to deal with people.. but you go and see the familiar friendly smiling faces of people greeting you because they are happy to see you.. Its there for us for celebrations, the bar-mitzvahs, My Auf Ruf was there where I was called up to the Torah before my wedding.. and holidays. and landmark events. Its a home away from home for a lot of the little kids whose parents see to it that the Temple is part of their regular event schedule.

Tonight after posting this column I will go to bed and I hope Friday will be a better day.. I actually look forward to my annoying client, and the guy who didn't get his check yet and the Florida appraisor who is up to monkey business. I hope Friday is a better day.

The Highland Park Temple Restoration Fund.

If friends want to make contributions, they may send them to The Temple's regular address:
201 South Third Avenue
Highland Park, NJ 08904


Neil said...

Cathy and I walked over yesterday. It looks pretty bad from the outside, but the structure also looks sound.

Nate said...

That's what the engineers are saying..

And one more note to add from last nights meeting..

You gotta give credit to Mayor Meryl Frank who also happens to be a Temple Member.. Last year during Katrina, CNN's Anderson Cooper stood incredulously while politicians praised other politiicians.. casuing Cooper to blurt out "I got dead bodies all over the place and you're praising yourself!".

Frank very wisely pointed out last night the true HEROICS of the firefighters who battled the blaze.. and the ones who fought off the flames that were engulfing the sanctuary to safely remove the Torahs.. and all the other sacred books. Let's not lose sight of what an excellent job firefighters do each and every day while we sit in our air conditioned offices.. they are out there risking life and limb.

Pumpstradamus said...

I dont know if that is a Jewish thing..
but its a human thing. We're like weebles..
we wobble but we dont fall down.. and if
we do.. we get right back up.

It's definitely a human thing, but strongly manifested in the Jewish nation. I was blessed during my college years to have heard two hugely dramatic individuals address us on campus.... Meir Kahane (just five days before he was assassinated in 1990) and Abba Eban, in 1992. Eban gave us a memorable and very poetic quote, saying to the effect that perserverance and resilience are among the strongest attributes of the Jewish people, which accounts for the fact (and the hope) that no matter how dispersed throughout the world or few in number we may become, the reverberation of even the faintest Jewish voice can heard in every generation.

A beautiful post, Nate. The Amazing Pumpstradamus predicts that things will return to normal and we will move forward with optimism and renewal in the upcoming high holiday season.

Nate said...

One other thing that we bounce back from are the cults that try to steal our young souls. Jackie Mason filed suit today against the disgraceful Messianic Jews organization. Here is the quote from their sellout spokeswoman who sold her soul to the Devil to represent a cult...

Susan Perlman, a spokeswoman for Jews for Jesus, said the pamphlet was "good-natured."

"Shame on him for getting so upset about this," she said Friday.

And I'm sure Susan Perlman's family is very proud of her!

We will bounce back Pump!

Cuzin' Ellie Sue said...

First time caller, long time listener. Couple of points. I think the local fire department deserves tzedakah for their heroic efforts saving the torah scrolls, etc. Even if it's something like sending over a plate of sandwiches, snacks, etc., I think coupling your kind words with actionable efforts (e.g. Tzedakah) would really let the firefighters know how much you really appreciate their heroics. OK, now onto the "Messianic Jews". Due to a very poor choice on my part of a former beau, I was exposed first-hand to the "Messianic Jewish" community. To say I was horrified would be an understatement. While my former beau was not a "Messianic Jew", his ex-girlfriend was (and he stayed close friends with her....don't even ask why I stayed with him). Anyways, I find the "Messianic Jews" to be a frightening crew. But, here's the rub. Many of them are from Russia and only speak Russian. They are a prime audience for the Messi-aniacs. The Messi-aniacs have Russian speaking leaders and we all know that immigrants are attracted to causes which speak their language. Now, we all know many Russian Jews who have turned to Judaism and synagogue life. So, my theory is only partially true. Why am I posting all these thoughts? Cause I'm having a crappy 2006. So while Nate can have a crappy Wednesday and Thursday, I can commiserate since all of 2006 has boded poorly. But, Rosh Hashana is coming up and I keep my prayers and optimism for the Jewish people, our brothers and sisters in Israel and scattered across the globe, for my local community and family and maybe selfishly for me and my husband.

Nate said...

I think it would be neat if people made a donation to the Temple Restoration Fund in honor of the heroic firefighters.. especially the guy who ran in and got the Torahs out. I mean this guy risked life and limb to get in there and retrieve them, and if people send their checks and write in the memo "In honor of _____ of the Fire Department" that would be a very nice gesture to these guys.

Nate said...

Oh and one more point... Wednesday was just a bummer of a day.. but nothing kills you inside more than hearing that a place close to your heart, the place where you met your wife is on fire! Crummy exceeds all other adjectives exponentially.. and I hope it's a long time before I have another crummy day like Thursday!