Letters: Synagogue Move, Changing Priorities

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Reconsider the Move?
I was shocked upon reading in the April 11 Jewish Exponent about Congregations of Shaare Shamayim’s moving plans (“Congregations of Shaare Shamayim Planning to Move from Northeast Philadelphia to Old York Road”).

Shaare Shemayim’s imposing building has been an anchor for the far Northeast’s Jewish community for about 50 years. What really stings is that, as reported by the Exponent, “Shaare Shamayim never planned to move, according to (Jacques) Lurie, (the synagogue’s executive director). Its Verree Road property was not on the market.”

What prompted the decision to move? An “unexpected offer” of $5 million from the Block Church. OK, the congregation’s membership is down to about 300 families, but most houses of worship (Jewish and non-Jewish alike) are experiencing declines in membership, including Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel.

The officers of Shaare Shamayim are being short-sighted in considering this move because if KI continues to lose members, what will happen if it reaches a point where it needs to sell its building?

Of course, a decision of this magnitude should be arrived at democratically, and a group of 161 Shaare Shamayim members did visit the proposed space at KI, of which 152 favored making the move. But if 300 families belong to the synagogue, that would mean approximately 600 members, so only 25% of the membership decided its fate.

I hope that Shaare Shamayim’s leadership will explore other options before abandoning the current site, such as attracting more of the surrounding area’s Modern Orthodox residents, some of whom have already been welcomed into their sanctuary.

Jack Butler, Philadelphia

Priorities Have Changed
Your editorial “Trump and the Jews” (April 18) says, “in poll after poll, Jewish voters made clear that the issues driving their election decisions focused on more than just Israel and taxes, and included abortion, immigration, gun control, health care and Supreme Court nominations, among other things.” This was true before Oct. 7, but is it true now?

Israel, the home of half of all Jews in the world, is being threatened by Iran and its proxies Hamas, Hezbollah, etc., with annihilation — just as Hitler and his minions annihilated most European Jews in World War II. Is the threat of a second Holocaust less important to you and American Jews than the Supreme Court or gun control in America? Please think about this before dismissing Israel’s survival as a less-important concern.

Morris Olitsky, Havertown


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