On a recent Wednesday morning, 13 members of the Jewish and Christian faith gathered at 20th and Atlantic, the Longport address where one of the city's most cherished landmarks once stood.
On that day, representatives of the Jewish Federation of Atlantic & Cape May presented parishioners of the Church of the Redeemer a $3,600 donation - a sum that will aid the Episcopal congregation's goal of rebuilding. The 104-year-old Spanish style building that faced the bay was destroyed by a fire caused by the June 30 storm.
Steven Perskie, president of the Jewish Federation and longtime resident of Longport, felt the donation was a very natural and instinctive reaction.
"(The Federation's) mission is to interact with and support the general community in ways that are consistent with Jewish values. Nothing in our view is more consistent with these values as helping a community in need that has lost a church to this kind of tragedy," the president said.
The $3,600 check, an intentional multiple of 18, represents good luck according to the Jewish faith. Traditionally, a numerological value is given to each of the Hebrew letters. "Life" in the Hebrew alphabet adds up to the number 18.
"This amount symbolizes two lives. The life of this church as it was and as it will be," Perskie explained.
Tom Subranni, a chairperson of the board of trustees for the church, accepted the donation with gratitude.
"These funds will help us rebuild our church, which stood on this site for over 100 years," Subranni said. "It will rise again from the ashes and serve the community as it has for so many years.
"In benevolence, the Jewish people are above the reach of competition," he continued, quoting writer Mark Twain.
Kate Subranni, a member of The Church of the Redeemer, was also present, wearing deep blue earrings made from salvaged stained glass of the church's windows.
"We all crawled through the rubble, even though the fire department yelled at us," Robert Subranni, a member of the church's executive staff, said.
The parishioner, among others, salvaged as many artifacts as possible to recycle for the new building, including gold plaques from the turn of the century. Pieces of the painted tiled altar stood against the church's rectory, still to be wiped clean of ash for reuse.
"We want to get it back on the register. You aren't going to be able to recognize the differences," he said.
The Church of the Redeemer's construction manager, Dan Mittelman, confirmed that the contracts are in the works to replicate the church as closely as possible to the original. The only difference will be a larger guild hall, with a modern, full-sized kitchen in order to accommodate more of the community.
"We are open to all," said chairperson Subranni, "We want the guild hall to be used for different events, like painting or yoga classes."
The church, which focuses on spirituality for all, rather than strict religious law, has plans to be open for full services by Father's Day 2013, Subranni confirmed.
Donations to the rebuilding effort can be sent directly to the church at 108 S. 20th Ave., Longport, NJ 08403.
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