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Queens Chronicle

Howard Beach Judea Center gives thanks

Temple, hard hit by Sandy, hosts a party for holiday it missed last year

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Posted: Wednesday, November 27, 2013 10:30 am

The synagogue was devastated last year by Hurricane Sandy, causing an estimated $150,000 in damage, according to its executive director, Barry Rachnowitz.

But now things are looking up, and Rachnowitz spent much of this week helping prepare a Thanksgiving feast, which brought together the temple’s pre-school students and their families on Tuesday afternoon.

“When Sandy hit, people gave to us. How can we not give to people?” Lisa Mason, the assistant director of the center’s school, where she teaches the universal pre-kindergarten class, reflected.

In addition to the celebration, the temple is also in the process of taking up a collection for the needy “to do something nice for the holidays,” Rachnowitz said.

The two benefactors will be City Harvest and the Bowery Mission.

Earlier in the week, the children in the school learned a little about the meaning of Thanksgiving, a holiday which has its roots in religious traditions but has long been celebrated in a secular manner. In this country, the holiday is commonly traced back to 1621 in Plymouth, Mass.

The youngsters, ranging from three to five years old, even pitched in to help mash the sweet potatoes and toss the salad.

The event was first held two years ago but was cancelled last year because of Sandy, according to Rachnowitz.

Volunteer chef Dorie Pearlman, Mason’s mother, made it a family affair, as she whipped up a feast for nearly 100, including the youngsters and their families. All the traditional delights were included: turkey, sweet potatoes topped with marshmallows, homemade cranberry sauce, corn, green beans and salad.

“It’s nice for the families to come together,” Rachnowitz said.

A traditional tepee stood at the center of the room, with many of the youngsters taking turns dancing and running around it. The tables were set up family style, with decorations made by the children, who also made their colorful headwear.

As a reminder of the significance of the holiday, guests were offered copies of a literary piece entitled, “Give Thanks,” which said, in part, “In this time of plenty, let us remember those who have no festivity and those whose lives are more troubled than our own.”

The words ring especially true after the losses suffered last year.

“The water came in three feet high,” Rachnowitz said. “We had to sanitize everything.” Walls had to be replaced, and the front of the building had to be re-tiled, adding that the school also lost many of its books, chairs and toys.

“We’re all thankful to be together, to be healthy and to celebrate family and friends,” said Ann Ljuba, whose four-year-old daughter attends the school. Completing the picture was Grandma Rosita.

A good — and filling — time was had by all.

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