(By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for 5TJT.com)
There is a well-known dispute going on regarding the future status of one of the oldest shuls in Boro Park. The shul is known as Anshei Lubawitz, located at 4024 12th Avenue in Boro Park.
There are two factions in the dispute.
- There is the “Save-the-Shul” faction who are against the plan to sell the shul building to a developer who plans on razing the shul, building five floors of condos and letting the congregants pray in an area on the first floor.
- There is the “Turn-the-Shul-into-Condos” faction which supports the idea of selling the shul and turning it into condominiums so that the developer and his friends could make a sizable windfall.
What is new, is the publication of the latest volume of Teshuvos v’Hanhagos, volume VII, which contains a responsa on this very dispute. Teshuvos v’Hanhagos is written by one of the leading Gedolim and Poskim in Eretz Yisroel, HaGaon HaRav Moshe Shternbuch Shlita, Raavad of the Eida Chareidis.
Rav Shternbuch comes out decidedly on the side of the “Save-the-Shul” faction. He writes in response #22:2.
I have been asked by a Kehillah in Chutz LaAretz that have a tall and beautiful synagogue. Now, [there are those] who wish to sell the building of the congregation to a developer who wishes to raze the synagogue and build in its place a residential apartment house and he promises that the first floor of the building will be for the synagogue.
I have been asked if it is permitted to do this. I responded to them that the prohibition of destroying a synagogue is indeed a very grave one. It is only permitted [to do so] in order to build a more beautiful one its place or when in the current synagogue there is insufficient room for those who wish to pray there.
But in this situation, where the synagogue has ample room and is more beautiful as it is now where it is its own building and they are destroying it in order to earn profits, it is obvious that it is a certain prohibition to do so. The congregation is obligated to demand that the sale be abolished immediately.”
The “Save-the-Shul” faction has applied for historical landmark status for the building.
“This neighborhood has some very serious parking problems in the first place,” remarked one neighbor. “If the condominium project goes through it will create an additional parking nightmare. I have no desire to drive around for twenty minutes just because someone wants to be a millionaire on our cheshbon.”
A Rav who is familiar with the situation pointed to the recent fire at Notre Dame:
“Imagine, lehavdil, what would happen if someone wanted to take Notre Dame and say, ‘Okay we will be building five levels of condominiums on top of the former Notre Dame and we will leave the bottom floor for the cathedral.’ The entire France and the Catholic world would be shrying Chai v’Kayam! But some people are trying to this to a shul rachmana litzlan, the oldest shul in Boro Park and people are not shrying – this can chalilah be a big kitrug on the Klal Yisroel! We are mechuyav in trying to stop this churban – Yes a churban!”
“There is another factor that all Jewish communities should be concerned about,” remarked a Rabbi Emeritus of another synagogue. “The Torah community should stand up against unscrupulous individuals that attempt to take over shuls and synagogues and try to turn a profit.”
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