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Sandro Rosell
FC Barcelona President
Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The fate of Congregation Shaare Zedek, a Conservative synagogue on the Upper West Side’s West 93rd Street and the nation’s third-oldest congregation, is now hanging in the balance. As a result of the financial problems affecting many religious congregations throughout NYC, Shaare Zedek’s leaders are planning to sell the property to a developer, replacing the almost 100-year-old building with a 14-story condo, in which the synagogue will continue to occupy the first three floors. 

In a report Sunday, the NY Times noted that the plan to sell off the synagogue has garnered opposition from some who feel strongly that the building, which has stood in its present location since 1923, is a historic landmark and must be preserved. 

One of those opposing the sale is Ronna Blaser, a founder of the West 90s Neighborhood Coalition who told the Times she was taken aback that anyone would hold the synagogue in so little regard as to suggest that it be sold away. 

“I’m surprised that the board of trustees doesn’t really value the history and beauty of the building enough to find a different kind of resolution for the problems they’re facing,” Blaser told the news outlet. West Side said that Blaser’s coalition unsuccessfully attempted to get the synagogue landmark protection, asking the NY Supreme Court to stop the sale.

The synagogue’s leaders have countered that the $34.3 million deal is essential for the historic synagogue’s survival. Michael Firestone, the synagogue’s president, went so far as to say that the deal is “an existential issue” for Shaare Zedek. 

In an open letter to congregants posted on the synagogue’s website in July, Firestone said he was “very happy to report” that New York’s Supreme Court granted the synagogue’s petition for final approval to sell the building. 

“The coming days and weeks will mark a transition period for Shaare Zedek as we undertake the process of moving out of the building in anticipation of the final High Holidays in our beloved sanctuary,” Firestone wrote. “As with all partings, I expect that it will be tinged with sadness.  Yet it should also be a time for hope and optimism.” Firestone

By: David Koppel