Baton Rouge synagogue damaged by Rita

For the last couple of weeks, Beth Shalom in Baton Rouge has housed Torah scrolls that were rescued from Touro Synagogue and the New Orleans Jewish Day School. Yesterday, those scrolls had to be evacuated again as Hurricane Rita sent water rushing though the building.

The Baton Rouge Jewish community has welcomed hundreds of Jews from the New Orleans area, and now congregants at Beth Shalom find themselves preparing for High Holy Days elsewhere.

Rabbi Stan Zamek arrived at the building to see whether it had power; upon entering with a flashlight he encountered water in the hallway. He followed the sound to the social hall, where he saw water streaming in and ceiling tiles falling. He said water came in through air vents to both the social hall and the sanctuary.

The roof is intact and the building is structurally sound, but extensive repairs will be needed.

Zamek checked the Torah scrolls and found they were all dry and safe, then started calling congregants to help clear out the building. The Torahs were taken to a congregant’s home, and other books and ritual items were removed.

Dozens of volunteers, including the religious school students and members of Sigma Alpha Mu spent the day moving items and attempting to dry out the building.

Rev. Tommy French of neighboring Jefferson Baptist Church offered use of the church for services. Starting this weekend, Shabbat services will be held at the church until further notice. The High Holy Days will also be held there. Other churches also offered their buildings.

In his blog, Zamek said “we will all be fine and our sanctuary and social hall will be restored.”

Pictures of the damage and cleanup are available here.