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Hurricane-Damaged Synagogue Finds A Home For The Holidays

Robin Sussingham
Temple Emanuel in Lakeland

Hurricane Irma left the congregation of an area synagogue homeless just as the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah begins Wednesday evening. But a local church has stepped forward with help.

Temple Emanuel in Lakeland lay in the storm's path, and the winds and rain caused the ceiling and asbestos to tumble down into the main sanctuary, making it unsafe to hold the upcoming high holy day services there.

Rabbi David Goldstein says when leaders at First Presbyterian Church learned of the situation, they "rolled out the red carpet," inviting the Temple to use their facilities at no cost.

"They will not let us pay for any of the extra janitorial, custodial, or sound people, all of which is extra hours being put in and obviously, extra money," Goldstein said. "They're taking care of everything."

It's not the first time First Presbyterian has helped out. A former pastor of First Presbyterian Church defended Temple Emanuel decades ago from what he called anti-Semitism, when prominent members of the community opposed the Temple's construction in its current location.

"They were there at the very beginning," Goldstein said, "and they're now here once again at a time of need."

Robin Sussingham was Senior Editor at WUSF until September 2020.
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