NEWS

Preserving the past

The area's only Orthodox Jewish synagogue has been ordered by the Department of Licenses and Inspections to make repairs.

By Lorraine Gennaro
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Aug. 7, 2008

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After Rabbi Yadidya Dogovitz died in '04 at age 97, congregants took turns leading the service in Hebrew, which is still the case. Former lay leader and present member Dave Kalniz , from Seventh and Porter streets, started attending when his dad died about 20 years ago, about the same time the synagogue he and his family went to, Congregation Shari Eli at Eighth and Porter streets, closed. Kalniz is heartbroken Little Shul is shuttered, but remains hopeful it will reopen.

"I think it's an institution down [in Pennsport]. I think the building should be certified historic. A lot of Jewish roots came from that synagogue. At one time, that area was predominantly Jewish. Over the years many generations have walked through that door. To close the synagogue or to knock it down is like destroying a person. It's a very, very sad and a deplorable situation," Kalniz said.

Oddly enough, while the house of worship is designated Orthodox and the service is such, no congregants are, Sisman said, albeit many like Kalniz grew up Orthodox.

"Ironically, it's an Orthodox synagogue and we maintain it that way honoring tradition, but nobody who comes is Orthodox," Sisman said.

Dominick and Frances Anastasi, who live a few doors away, consider the synagogue a neighborhood fixture. Dominick's sister is married to a man whose family has strong local ties and not only worshipped at Little Shul, but about 30 years ago the man's brother-in-law's kin owned a Jewish bakery on the corner of McKean and Fourth streets that is now an apartment building. Like Kalniz, the couple said they'd hate to see one of the last local vestiges of Judaism relegated to the pages of history.

"It's definitely salvageable, a little touch up here and there," Dominick said. "There is no way I would condemn it. I'm sure at one time it was really beautiful in there."

Licenses and Inspections returns in December for another walk-through following the standard six months from the June 19 notice. If the congregation fails to fix the damages, the next step is L&I taking them to equity court, which will issue an edict to make repairs. If things remain unchanged, the court could order L&I to make the repairs and they in turn would bill the synagogue. The violations are in the "unsafe" category, which means they are fixable and the structure is not in danger of demolition, Evans said.

Kalniz said he's hoping somebody will read about Little Shul's plight and want to help.

"It's a relic. There has to be somebody out there that can take the time and help," he said.

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