The former Ahavath Sholem Synagogue at 407 Jefferson Avenue (google map) is now threatened with demolition. In December, Housing Court Judge Patrick Carney issued an order to demolish the City's oldest synagogue, one of the last remaining vestiges of Jewish life on the City's East Side. The familiar onion domed landmark on Jefferson Avenue was designed by A. E. Minks and Sons and built in 1903. With the cooperation of Rev. Jerome Ferrell and his congregation, the Greater New Hope Church of God in Christ, this historic structure was designated a local landmark by the City's Preservation Board in 1997.
Efforts are now underway to "Save My Shul" and establish a community based preservation campaign to save this historic and threatened East Side landmark. I convened the first meeting at the Jewish Community Center earlier this month and invited ten local preservationists to wrap their minds around what could be done to reverse course and save the synagogue. Thirty people showed up. I asked Jason Wilson from Preservation Studios to present information about the synagogue's possible National Register status. Dennis Maher was invited from the UB School of Architecture and Planning and presented a compelling proposal for the building's reuse. Tim Tielman has agreed to write the synagogue's National Register application as he'd previously compiled the information and wrote the local landmark designation application that was submitted to the City's Preservation Board in 1997.
We are currently establishing a series of technical reports - based on architectural and engineering studies - to determine the structure's overall physical condition. Attorney Richard Berger, Campaign for Greater Buffalo attorney and board member, and I asked Judge Carney to amend his "order to vacate" and allow this important preliminary work to go forward. Council Member Darius Pridgen has been very helpful in contacting Rev. Ferrell, the minister of the last congregation to hold services here, for access.
To learn more about the City's oldest synagogue please check out a growing set of resources that include this article by Chana Kotzin from the February 10, 2012 issue of the Buffalo Jewish Review. This image archive contains numerous interior and exterior pictures and photographs of the original blueprints submitted to the City in 1903. The synagogue's local landmark designation application from 1997 was made available for wider distribution with Tim Tielman's assistance.
Information from the engineering and architectural studies currently underway and potential fund raising plans will be presented at a public meeting tba in mid March. If you know someone who attended the Jefferson Street Schul please send me an email. Thank you.