This is the story of a bad ceiling and cooperating congregations.
On the Wednesday prior to Kol Nidre, part of Gomley Chesed Synagogue’s ceiling caved in. If that wasn’t bad enough, asbestos was found, which meant the property was not habitable and could not be repaired by Yom Kippur. The congregation had no place to worship on the holiest day of the year.
Rabbi David Goldstein made a call to Linda Fox-Jarvis, president of Ohef Sholom Temple. He asked about the possibility of using the Temple Sinai Sanctuary for services. When Ohef Sholom merged with Temple Sinai, their land and buildings in Portsmouth became part of Ohef Sholom and they have been vacant and for sale for the past year and a half.
“It was with great pleasure that I told Rabbi Goldstein that “of course” they could use the property,” says Fox-Jarvis.
At that point, Ohef Sholom’s temple team switched into high gear—Charlie Nusbaum made sure the insurance coverage was modified to allow their occupancy; Bill Nusbaum wrote a legal document to lease the property to Gomley Chesed for the weekend (at no charge) but just to be sure everyone was covered legally; Peter Crockin met Rabbi Goldstein at the property and gave him the keys; Tom and John Bachman went to the property to check on the power and water (and found the air conditioning not working and an electrical problem); Crockin subsequently met the AC and electrical contractors at the temple so they could make the required repairs.
Fox-Jarvis and Lisa Cohen took Fox- Jarvis’ truck to Gomley Chesed and helped them load up and move their ark, torahs, reading table, tallit, yamulkah holder, coffee pots, toilet paper, trashcans, and so forth to Temple Sinai. “We called ourselves Two Women and a Truck,” says Fox-Jarvis.
Mike Phillips and Gill, the maintenance crew at OST, went to Temple Sinai and installed light bulbs where missing or burnt out, as well as extra smoke detectors. Ohef Sholom’s office helped serve as central command coordinating all efforts.
“There are not enough superlatives to express how we feel about how incredible Ohef Sholom was to us,” says Rabbi Goldstein. “At one point while Lisa and Linda were working so hard cleaning, they said to me, ‘Rabbi, get out of here—you have other things to prepare for.’
“We were able to worship in a comfortable and wonderful setting. It was a fantastic experience of cooperation,” says Rabbi Goldstein.
“I felt so bad for Rabbi Goldstein and the congregants of Gomley Chesed, but at least they had a place to be for Yom Kippur. And thank goodness, the ceiling did not cave in during their Yom Kippur services when their congregants were present,” says Fox-Jarvis. “I am so proud to be part of Ohef Sholom Temple. It truly does take a village…. So, perhaps there is a reason we have not sold the property just yet—perhaps it needed to remain empty so that it would be there for Gomley Chesed during their crises.”
At press time, Gomley Chessed was being cleaned and prepared to return to its own sanctuary, hopefully this week.