KIAMESHA LAKE, N.Y. (Nov. 17)
For the first time anywhere, a national congregational organization has undertaken to conduct the affairs of a synagogue no longer able to maintain itself because of the changing ethnic character of a big city neighborhood.
Arthur J. Levine, president of the United Synagogue of America, the national organization of Conservative congregations, revealed here today at the organization’s biennial convention that the United Synagogue had assumed responsibility for Temple Ansche Chesed, 100th Street and West End Avenue, one of the oldest congregations in New York City and second oldest among the 830 affiliates of the United Synagogue.
He said, “It will be our experimental station for programs dealing with all age levels with a concentration both on youth and on the older generation. It will become the testing ground for our ideas and, we believe, a historic attempt to restore a major Jewish neighborhood and stabilize an important community which has been on the decline and now shows signs of resurgence.”
Levine stressed that Ansche Chesed, “which dates its origin almost to the beginning of our republic, will remain a house of prayer in the total sense of these words under the direction of the present board and rabbi. “It is an act of faith in the future of New York’s West Side,” he said, “and we will act this out in the most tangible ways.”
TO BECOME VIABLE CENTER
He pointed out that the temple will become the center of the United Synagogue’s youth activities; both for pre-college youngsters in the United. Synagogue Youth (USY) and for collegians through the Atid (Future) organization. There will also be facilities for adults, including recreational, educational and supportive programs for senior citizens.
Once the home of one of the city’s finest religious schools, Ansche Chesed again will have a school which eventually is expected to become a day school from kindergarten through high school. Levine also pointed out that the temple will provide religious facilities for students at nearby Columbia University and Barnard College who do not have them now.
He explained that the leaders of Ansche Chesed came to the United Synagogue with the proposal “that we take over because they were getting on in years and were concerned about the synagogue’s future.” He said that this was becoming the norm rather than the exception in the big cities with changing neighborhoods, “where one ethnic group replaces another.”
Ansche Chesed, which was incorporated in 1895, was founded in the early decades of the 19th century. Its present building, constructed in 1933, is considered one of the finest examples of synagogue architecture of the time. The United Synagogue of America’s 5-day biennial convention began yesterday with some 2,000 delegates in attendance.