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New England and much of the country suffered weeks of above-average temperatures and stifling humidity in late July and early August.

Local temples weather the heat during steamy summer



Local temples weather the heat during steamy summer

New England and much of the country suffered weeks of above-average temperatures and stifling humidity in late July and early August.
Rabbi Richard Perlman

In addition to his spiritual knowledge, Rabbi Richard Perlman of Temple Ner Tamid of the North Shore in Peabody also knows some first aid. This proved invaluable during last week’s heat wave, when a woman passed out at a funeral Perlman was officiating.

“I helped her out, without the need to call 911,” Perlman said. “She just needed some fluids and an ice pack around her neck. At another funeral, it wasn’t that easy. I could tell this one needed EMT support so, I told that family, ‘You need to call 911.’ She was an older woman and I knew that a bottle of water would not do the trick in her case. They called 911 and all went well after that.”

This summer has seen an unusual amount of heat in Massachusetts, both in terms of how high the mercury has gotten and the number of days it’s done so. The most recent stretch ended on Aug. 9 and lasted six days, with heat indices equaling or surpassing 95 degrees prompting the National Weather Service to call a heat advisory.

The city of Boston has established multiple daily records, most recently on Aug. 8, when the mercury hit 98 degrees, topping the previous high of 96 for the day set back in 1983.

After last week’s thunderstorms ushered in cooler weather, leaders of local synagogues reflected on the extended heat.

“This certainly ranks among the hotter, drier summers in the 30 years I’ve lived here,” said Rabbi David Meyer of Temple Emanu-El in Marblehead.

Susan Weiner, the executive director at Temple Sinai in Marblehead, could not remember a hotter summer in her 11 years in her leadership position.

“It’s definitely been a scorcher,” she said of this year.

As of last week, much of Eastern Massachusetts was listed as being in a severe drought, the second-highest category of intensity as classified by the US Drought Monitor.

“Whenever anything extreme is happening,” Perlman said, “we are always mindful of the fact we have elderly congregants – not just elderly, people who are frail, fragile … maybe ill.”

He said that on “very hot days, when I’m at a funeral or unveiling ceremony, I encourage gentlemen not to wear a sports coat. The heat and humidity can become potentially dangerous.”

On the North Shore, synagogues have continued their normal programming under challenging conditions.

“I’m not sure that much has changed,” Weiner said. “Clearly, the air conditioner stays on longer. We use it as much as possible when we have in-house events.”

Recently, such events at Temple Sinai included a bar mitzvah and a town hall, as well as the usual minyans and weekly services.

At Temple Ner Tamid, evening services on Aug. 4 were followed by cool refreshments. Ice cream sticks and sandwiches and Popsicles were available for congregants that night.

The temple also has reopened its drinking fountains, which had been closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s largely to make sure people remain hydrated who visit the building,” Perlman said.

Ironically, Temple Emanu-El had to move an outdoor Kabbalat Shabbat service indoors two Fridays ago, but this was due to rain, not heat.

“As long as people have stayed hydrated and kept a sunshade on of some kind, such as a hat, they’ve continued to participate in both indoor and outdoor activities,” Meyer said. “Folks are still enjoying going out and being together.”

Perlman noted that the weather has been even more extreme elsewhere in the country, including Kentucky.

“I thank God,” he said, that “we’ve not had hurricanes yet. We pray for everyone suffering from natural disasters everywhere. Our people know that if they need something, they can call us.”

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