"We came to synagogue and it was gushing, pouring down water, from the top level to the lower level," said Rabbi Yochonon Goldman, religious leader of the Orthodox synagogue. "Thank God, the damage to the Torah scrolls was miraculously very minimal."
Actually, services somehow went on that morning. Congregants prayed in the half of the sanctuary that wasn't covered by water, according to Goldman. But the synagogue, originally built in 1910, has been closed since then, and will remain so for at least two weeks as it undergoes major repairs. Until it reopens, services will be held at the Vilna Congregation, one block to the north on Pine Street.
Goldman said that it was too soon to place a monetary value on the damage to the nearly 100-year-old building.
Throughout the past week, dozens of workers moved about the synagogue, removing debris and damaged kitchen appliances while industrial-strength fans and dryers supplied near-deafening background noise. A series of vacuum-cleaner-style hoses hung like tentacles from holes that had been purposefully drilled into the ceiling. They act as dehumidifiers to literally suck excess moisture out of the ceiling, explained the rabbi.
Goldman said that every day, the building looks a little different as repair work continues. The incident happened to occur just two week before the shul's annual fundraising gala dinner.
That event will go on as scheduled -- on Wednesday, Feb. 28, at 5:30 p.m., at Houston Hall on the University of Pennsylvania.
"The damage is very significant, but we have to try and find a positive," said Goldman, who sounded as positive as someone could be in his situation. "Sometimes, something like this can be a blessing in disguise."