Mezuzahs, Hurricane Sandy and Artist Gary Rosenthal

Long Island N.Y. was one of the few stretches of northeast coastline that bore the brunt of last years infamous “Superstorm” Sandy, a titanic uber-hurricane that pounded the New York-New Jersey area. Today, little more than a year later, there are still a number of communities in some of the harder-hit areas that are struggling to recover and rebuild.

As the Jewish holiday of Hannukah approached, Congregation B’nai Israel of St. Petersburg FL. began preparing special gifts for one of those Long Island Synagogues that had been destroyed. Under the guidance and direction of renowned sculptor and artist Gary Rosenthal, each child of the B’nai Israel Congregation made a unique Mezuzah case to be presented as a Hannukah gift to Temple Israel of South Merrick, on behalf of the St. Petersburg Community.

Rabbi Jacob Luski of Congregation B’nai Israel explains that these Mezuzah cases, each containing a kosher mezuzah scroll inscribed by hand with an ancient Hebrew text, are an apt correlation to Hanukkah, with its central theme of freedom and Jewish identity. Hanukkah, otherwise referred known as the “Festival of Lights”, commemorates the rededication of the temple in Jerusalem after its recapture from the Syrian-Greek oppressors who had forbidden Jews to practice their faith.

Rosenthal, based in the Washington, D.C.,-area, was resident artist at the St. Petersburg congregation’s annual gift and craft show, held last month. Rosenthal held an artist’s workshop for the synagogue’s students, each of whom received two free mezuzah kits, one to make for the Long Island synagogue, and another to keep.