August 02, 2008

Synagogue for Sale: Religion Shrinkage Not Just for Catholics

At the end of June, three of Worcester's Catholic churches were closed due to diminishing attendance and lack of donations. This is symptomatic (and I use that word in the most positive way) of the shrinking influence of religion in Massachusetts, something that I consider a positive process. My adopted home state's status as one of the least religious in the country is a source of pride; where the influence of religion diminishes, the hope for the predominance of reason increases. The latter condition doesn't follow necessarily from the former, but it does tend to increase the probability.

Lest it be thought that the situation applies only to Catholicism, however, a local synagogue in what has been for many years a part of town with a large Jewish demographic has gone on the market. Congregation Shaarai Torah West on Pleasant Street is for sale for the same reasons that has led to church closures. For $750,000, you can own the 12,500 square foot synagogue that once housed the sister congregation to Shaarai Torah on Providence Street, which itself closed years ago. That synagogue is now a condo.

One of Worcester's synagogues for sale
By Bronislaus B. Kush

Congregation Shaarai Torah West, one of the oldest Jewish Orthodox communities in Central Massachusetts, has put its three-story synagogue at 835 Pleasant St. up for sale.

Attempts to reach synagogue officials for comment over the past three days were unsuccessful.

But the real estate broker handling the marketing of the imposing brick structure on upper Pleasant Street said the building is apparently too big for the small congregation, which plans to worship on other property it owns in the nearby Newton Square area...

[Real estate broker David] Cohen said the 12,516-square-foot building, constructed in 1936, could easily be used for another house of worship, a school or something similar...
A school would be a good use; affordable housing would be even better. Again, I hope that whomever purchases the old building will preserve its unique architecture rather than turning it into some nondescript block of flats.

To my mind, turning houses of worship into houses — whatever sect or faith they once held — is movement in the right direction. Hypothetically, at least, serving the needs of man instead of those of the mythologies that he has invented over the millennia could be of benefit to those who need it. The current owners of the property could do a tremendous service to the community if they were to lower the asking price and place a premium upon how the real estate and building would be used in their next incarnation rather than seeking to recoup a particular amount of money from it. In fact, since the building is supposed to be God's House and has for years enjoyed exemption from taxation for that reason, they might even consider donating it to a worthy charity. Would that not be the most spiritually-correct thing to do? I doubt it will happen... but it would be a nice gesture demonstrating a genuine concern for the well-being of others.

Sphere: Related Content