Trailer Replaces Synagogue
By Howard Schwach
Members of the Derech Emunoh Synagogue, the historic temple that was gutted by a raging, wind-driven fire last week and demolished by the city the following day, have vowed to rebuild the building.
The building was slated to be renovated by the developers of the Arverne By The Sea project, which is set to break ground in the next few months.
As part of its agreement with the city, Benjamin-Beechwood was to restore the synagogue after breaking ground for 30 new homes in the area of Beach 73 Street.
"The Request For Proposal (RFP) required a developer to spend an "unspecified amount of money" to bring the historic property "from sub-standard up to standard," according to Les Lerner, a partner in the development team.
Lerner says that the agreement obligated his team to fix up an historic synagogue, not build a completely new building.
"I am sure that HPD will still want us to do something for the congregation, but I don't believe that it will include building a new synagogue," Lerner said.
Lerner promised Jonathan Sigal, the vice president of Derech Emonuh, that his organization would set up a doublewide trailer on its construction yard for the use of the congregation until permanent quarters can be found.
"They were thrilled, and took us up on the offer immediately," Lerner told The Wave. "Especially since the offer came a few hours before Shavuot, when new beginnings are promised.
Sigal says that he expects that the trailer will be in place by July 1.
Robert Wein, the synagogue's president, had hoped that the building could be saved, but city-building inspectors decided that it would be a danger to nearby buildings, including to the Addabbo Health Center.
Wein told reporters that the main sanctuary had not been used since the building's second fire in 1995, although the congregation, numbering approximately 25 people, continued to hold Saturday services in the basement, where the fire began.
A number of congregants told The Wave at the fire scene last week that the synagogue would be rebuilt.
"This is a miracle Shul," Joyce Ashe said. "We have rebuilt it before and we will rebuild it again."
"This area needs a synagogue if the new developer wants to draw Jewish homeowners," another congregant, who asked to remain anonymous, told The Wave. "It would be to their benefit to build a new, smaller synagogue on the same site."
Fire marshals have declared that the fire was accidental and that it started in an electrical outlet in the building's basement.