Op-Ed: Congregants & Developer Must Work Out Fate Of Boro Park’s Oldest Synagogue


Editor’s Note: This is a special editorial from a congregant of the oldest synagogue in Borough Park. It is the Jewish New Year prayer of KCP that all parties can resolve this issue in a just and fair manner. To read more about this issue click here.  

On Rosh Hashanah Jewish communities around the world will gather to pray about the year ahead. Who will live and who will die,  who will die at his predestined time and who before his time; who by water and who by fire . . .

One community, however, will be praying for the very future of its synagogue. Will it live to welcome another year of congregants celebrating and praying in its walls or will it be destroyed, hacked and bulldozed?

The fact that developers want to destroy the oldest synagogue in Borough Park, home to the densest Jewish population outside of Israel makes the wanton destruction of the this historic institution all the more troubling.

Built in 1906 at the corner of 41st Street and 12th Avenue, the grandeur of the yellow stuccoed-style synagogue, with vaulted ceilings painted to look like the sky, remains a testament to how cherished the sacred space was to its congregants. Originally part of congregation Beth El Synagogue, the building was sold to Anshe Lubawitz in 1914.

In 1957, the community entered a new era of growth. Rabbi Yitzchak Ushpal, a dean at the Central Lubavitcher Yeshivah, took over as rabbi of Anshe Lubawitz. A popular and beloved pedagogue, many of his students followed their mentor, moving to Borough Park and becoming members of the synagogue. Over the years the building has been cared for and modernized.  An ark to house the Torah scrolls was built by artist and holocaust survivor Yitzchak Oksantsav.  

The synagogue was sold for $3.1 million. An independent broker estimated that the synagogue property is worth upwards of $4.5 million. Some 19 members submitted affidavits to the court that the synagogue was sold without the knowledge or consent of the membership.

The developer is supposedly going to build a new synagogue on the first floor and basement, but the congregation will need to payback the developers some $3 million to move into its new home under a high-rise apartment building planned for the lot.

One wonders how destroying a historic building to sell it at $1.5 million below market value without the knowledge or consent of the members will benefit the congregation.

On October 19th, Judge Martin M. Solomon will decide the fate of this historic synagogue.