Hebrew Congregation of St. Thomas Sets Annual Auction Feb. 10

The exterior of the St. Thomas synagogue.
The exterior of the St. Thomas synagogue.

Like virtually every institution on St. Thomas, the Hebrew Congregation took its blows from Hurricane Irma, but it is bouncing back to host its annual Antiques, Art and Collectibles Auction set for Sunday, Feb. 10, at the Antilles School’s MCM Center.

The doors open at 9:30 a.m. for those who want to scope out deals on the sale tables and view items offered at the silent auction which begins at 10 a.m. The live auction, conducted this year by Jay Matthews, will begin at noon. Breakfast and brunch, prepared by Passion Fruit Chefs, will be available throughout the event.

Unlike some previous years, there will be no admissions charge.

“This is a big anniversary for us – 20 years,” said Agi Rampino, a docent at the synagogue who also manages the gift shop.

Bidders will have the opportunity to acquire packages, including a dinner prepared by Chef Josh Fleagle for as many as 10 guests at Villa Norbu, a sunset cocktail sail for four aboard the catamaran Heavenly Days, a week in a 3-bedroom house in Woodstock, Vermont, and original art by Silvia Kahn.

Everything from antique furniture to a brand new Nissan electric car will be up for auction.

Those who wish to attend, but are unable to be there, can bid by proxy by contacting Stella at 340-774-4312 to have the forms sent to them.

The auction is the main fundraiser for the Hebrew Congregation of St. Thomas, which is still making repairs after the hurricanes of 2017 caused almost $175,000 in damage to the sanctuary, gift shop, social hall, and cemeteries.

“We have not yet received any funds from FEMA or VITEMA, but we’re hopeful,” said Rampino.

Interior of the synagogue.
Interior of the synagogue.

The funds raised at the auction are also used for the congregation’s charitable work. After the storms, synagogue members chartered two planes to bring down emergency supplies donated by Jewish congregations for distribution throughout the community.

“We spent three months giving away supplies at a warehouse donated at Al Cohen’s space on Raphune Hill,” said Rampino. “We gave out generators, batteries, diapers, gas cans, food, and water. Congregants told us about friends and neighbors who couldn’t leave their homes to come to us. For those who couldn’t get out of their houses, we delivered. We also went to Bethlehem House and the Family Resource Center.”

Members of the Hebrew Congregation teamed up with the Indian Society and My Brother’s Workshop to go into public housing communities to deliver emergency supplies. Working through the United Jewish Appeal, the Hebrew Congregation brought medical supplies to the hospital and helped restore the play yard at the Nana Baby Home.

“When we do fundraising efforts, we do that to be able to give back to the community,” said Rampino, noting that the congregation’s charity work is usually done anonymously. “The Jewish Community sees it as a mitzvah, a good deed. It’s a privilege to be able to extend what we have to the community.”

The congregation has set a goal of raising $100,000 this year.

“Last year was a tough year for us. Local businesses were suffering after the storm. This year they’ve been very generous,” said Rampino.