NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A religious family feud is brewing in Brooklyn, where some say the best way to save a congregation is to tear down its historic synagogue.
Others are upset and fighting back in court.
Congregation Anshe Lubavitch has stood at the corner of 41st Street and 12th Avenue for more than 100 years. It’s the oldest synagogue in Borough Park.
With its ceiling painted to look like the sky and finely detailed ark, it has a rich past and an uncertain future, CBS2’s Tony Aiello reported.
“When I heard about it, it was devastating. My family was heartbroken,” synagogue member Aron Jungreis said.
They were heartbroken after learning the trustees sold the property to a developer for $3.1 million.
The shul building will be torn down and replaced by a six-story condominium, which will be perched on top of a new, much larger synagogue with a modern community room that can be rented out for events. Right now, the lower part of the building is dank and showing its age.
“At the end of the day, this will be a very big success for the community, a very big success, because the shul’s going to have an income,” synagogue trustee Asher Gluck said. “The shul is out of money, and the members made the right decision for the future of their shul.”
But in court papers, 15 members say the deal with the developer was done in secret.
“The majority of the members were never notified of the meeting, they were never made aware of the meeting,” member David Shor said.
Shor and others claim the $3.1 million selling price was a sweetheart deal for the developer.
A recent real estate appraisal says the property is worth at least $4 million, probably closer to $4.5 million, Aiello reported.
They want to save the synagogue from the wrecking ball.
“In our tradition, historic is more important,” Jungreis said.
A judge has issued an order saying no demolition can take place until the congregation dilemma can be settled in court.
Some members said the synagogue is in such bad shape the foundation could collapse. But others claimed the building is fine and only suffering from a lack of maintenance.