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Crown Heights, NY - Portions Of Historic 1920s Synagogue Found Intact As Brooklyn Church Is Listed For Sale

Published on: October 19, 2017 11:07 AM
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Crown Heights, NY - A pair of Crown Heights real estate agents who were listing a church property got the shock of their lives when they discovered that the building contained significant portions of a synagogue that had been housed there decades earlier.

It was no surprise that the property at 209 Rochester Avenue had once been home to a synagogue.

The three story brick building has Jewish stars embedded in its brick facade and its stained glass windows and is one of dozens of former synagogues in Brooklyn that were converted for other uses when the once thriving Jewish community moved to other neighborhoods. 

But neither Chaya Zarchi nor her fellow real estate agent Judy Friedman expected to see a preserved women’s section, a mikvah or large, engraved marble memorial and donation plaques displayed prominently on the church’s wall.

Zarchi, who works for at BH Tal Real Estate, said that the building had been home to a Satmar synagogue, Congregation Ahavath Reyim, from 1920 until 1968.  According to Zarchi, Rabbi Chaim Berkowitz, the principal of the first Satmar cheder in Crown Heights, served as the shamash of the shul in the 1960s.


The building was sold to New Gethsemane Baptist Church, which owns several properties on the block, in 1965.

While the second floor sanctuary of the former synagogue was pressed into service as the Reverend James B. Cross Fellowship Hall/Chapel, the decision was made to not to alter to certain portions of the building. The third floor women’s balcony appears to be completely intact, as does the lower level mikvah, which is covered by a section of removable flooring.

“We saw it and we got chills,” Zarchi told VIN News. “All the names were still on the plaque the way they had been originally written.”

Asking the church’s spiritual leader Bishop Jason Mccants for an explanation, the agents were told that everything had been preserved as a sign of respect for the synagogue.

“We have seen churches in former synagogues before, with a magen dovid on the building or on the window, but we have never seen anything preserved like this before,” Zarchi told VIN News.  “Those marble plaques should have been knocked down years ago but they are right next to the entrance to the main sanctuary where they had to pass them every day.”

The 5682 square foot property, located just off Eastern Parkway and one block east of Utica Avenue, is listed at $975,000.  While the building is zoned R6 and can be converted into residential units, Zarchi said it is hard to ignore the building’s historical lure.

“It would be nice to see it turned back into a shul again,” admitted Zarchi.

silver rectangle is the outline of the removable floor that is covering the mikvahsilver rectangle is the outline of the removable floor that is covering the mikvah
The women's section can be seenThe women's section can be seen

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Read Comments (7)  —  Post Yours »


 Oct 19, 2017 at 11:34 AM Normal Says:

Wow, fifty years and not a mark.


 Oct 19, 2017 at 12:04 PM Isman100 Says:

The rav in the early 60s was Rav Moishe Leiter.


 Oct 19, 2017 at 02:57 PM Anonymous Says:

It's a shame that so called Chasidishe yidden sold the shul to a church which is forbidden.


 Oct 19, 2017 at 03:03 PM savta Says:

An acquaintance of ours grew up in that shul.


 Oct 19, 2017 at 03:33 PM Anonymous Says:

It's beautiful and really amazing that it was preserved so perfectly all of these years.


 Oct 19, 2017 at 07:57 PM triumphinwhitehouse Says:

I thought it assume to. Sell to a church


 Oct 20, 2017 at 02:58 PM Isman100 Says:

Dear anonymous, I used to daven there during the early 60s. The rav was a Lithuanian gaon without a beard far from Chasidish.There were only a couple of Chasidishe people davening there.


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