Where’s Noah?



Ex-Detroiter talks of Boulder flood, damage to homes and shul.

Water damage was so intense that the kitchen at Congregation Bonai Shalom in Boulder had to be gutted.
Water damage was so intense that the kitchen at Congregation Bonai Shalom in Boulder had to be gutted.

As a former Michigander, I am used to intense weather. Michigan is known for awesome snowstorms, ice storms and tornadoes. But this is a story of a totally different weather disaster, the flood that hit Boulder, Colo., my home for 14-plus years, from Sept. 11-15.

Sept. 11: It’s been pouring since Sept. 9. This is highly unusual for Boulder. By evening, the ground is saturated and the streets flow with water, some of them impassable. We grow nervous about the basement.

At 10:30 p.m., my husband finds water trickling into the basement, and we empty out the top-tier valuables. At 1 a.m., he wakes us to regurgitate 14 years’ worth of basement into the rest of the house.

Sept. 12: Water is still coming in. We frantically locate a water pump a few towns over. Two hours later, the river in Longmont [northeast of Boulder]overflows its banks, flooding the town biblically.

Sept. 13: Ezra, 13, returns home from a week of wet camping, but chooses not to go to Kol Nidre, so Jonah, 16, and I head over. It is hard to leave your house when it’s in crisis. From this point on, every aspect of the High Holidays is colored by the collective trauma of the flood.

Sept. 14: The cleansing fast of Yom Kippur and the fresh start of a new year takes on new meaning as chunks of our town and its surrounding mountains are washing away. Jonah, Ezra and I head out to shul Saturday morning to observe Yom Kippur and Shabbat, be with our community and exchange stories.

The stories are still in the present tense, though, as the flooding has not stopped. We’ve not heard yet from our friends in the mountains. Helicopters fly overhead. It is hard to look inward on this Yom Kippur.

We leave shul reluctantly. It is much more peaceful in synagogue, on this other river called denial.

We return home to find Mike (husband/dad) furiously emptying the basement of the wet furniture, carpet and drywall in an effort to prevent mold from setting in.

I look at him sadly and ask, “You need our help now?”

Drawers, doors and other items salvaged from Bonai Shalom in Boulder.
Drawers, doors and other items salvaged from Bonai Shalom in Boulder.

“Desperately,” he says.

We break our fast at 2:30 p.m. and change clothes to begin schlepping.

Among our copious stuff, I find a previously undiscovered, lovely Rosh Hashanah platter that belonged to my late mother-in-law. I also discover a beautiful set of wine glasses, and I salvage my siddur from my consecration at Shaarey Zedek [in Southfield].

Sept. 15: Most of the houses in my neighborhood have rain or flood damage. We band together, people offering trucks, helping to schlep to the dump, offering showers (we’ve shut off the gas to the water heater) and demolishing drywall.

Our shul, Congregation Bonai Shalom, is a 200-family Conservative egalitarian synagogue that backs up to a scenic creek. The building is now part of the creek. The main sanctuary is dry, but the rest of the building is flooded, soon to be gutted, and the rabbi’s house next door is uninhabitable. The sukkah was proven kosher as it fell apart and floated away.

About 13,000 Jews live in Boulder. Of the four synagogues with buildings, Bonai Shalom had the worst damage by far. We are borrowing office space from the Jewish Community Center, and have received help from Nechama (Jewish Disaster Response), the Jewish Federation and Jewish Family Services.

Religious groups around town offered space and resources. We will hold services at the Reform synagogue, the Orthodox shul and at the Unitarian church this month (possibly longer).

Recovery is just beginning, however, and normal is a long way off. The bills for the synagogue reparation are looming large, and we would be grateful for any donations you could provide.

Donate online at bit.ly/1aMkTCN. Make your gift “in honor of Congregation Bonai Shalom” so the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism knows where to direct your donation, or send a check to Congregation Bonai Shalom, 1527 Cherryvale Road, Boulder, CO 80303, with “FLOOD RELIEF” in the memo line. 

By Abigail Robinson| Special to the Jewish News

Abigail Robinson grew up in Southfield and attended Congregation Shaarey Zedek, Tamarack Camps and Hillel Day School in Farmington Hills. She lives in Boulder with husband, Mike Kone, and sons, Jonah and Ezra Kone, both avid Tamarack campers.


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