Before there was the George Washington Bridge, there was a small red light house at Jeffrey Point near 177th Street along the Hudson River. In fact, the Great Gray Bridge and the Little Red Light House are the subject of a classic children’s book you may have read to your kids.
I bet you thought that light house was long gone. I was sure it was. But, today, we went with a synagogue group (more on that later) in search of that little red light house that has survived even though it was long ago decommissioned.
On this cold and foggy day, just underneath the Great Gray Bridge,
there is this little light house
tucked away and almost invisible from afar.
But as you get closer to the base of the bridge,
there it is, resplendent in a new coat of paint against the gray sky.
And, although it is small, very small,
it would not be an easy landing. You must hold tight on the rails against the whipping winds, when you stand outside, on the top near the beacon.
Ranger Jerry, a man who said repeatedly how he hated paperwork so we all must be careful,
told us the history of the light house which was more important for its fog horn than its beacon in the late 1800s and early 1900s when these waters were heavily navigated.
Still, I wondered what did this light house have to do with Jews? After all we were there with a synagogue group. Maybe it was a place of hiding for refugees smuggled into this country after Roosevelt closed the borders to fleeing European Jews. Wow, an Anne Frank-like story right here in New York!! That must be it!!!
Rabbi Rachel gathered us around to talk about this monument’s relevance to us, as Jews. Something about Esther and Moses, each of whom was one against the powerful and many, and each of whom at some point felt too weak to lead. Like the light house when the Great Gray Bridge was built. Still each carried on and saved the Jewish people. And still, the light house stands.
A big rousing Kumbaya to Rabbi Rachel for trying to connect all of this, and make it relevant to the kids and allegorical and all that. What made it relevant to Jews was that a group of Jews schlepped to the light house on a cold, rainy, foggy day because we love our kids and they would have been disappointed if we didn’t go and we would have felt guilty. So THAT is what is Jewish about the light house.