A Synagogue Despairs Of a Sweeter New Year

September 16, 2009

Author: Corey Kilgannon

Source: The New York Times


Preparations for the High Holy Days have taken on a new urgency this year at Congregation Derech Emunoh, once one of the city’s largest synagogues, but for the last seven years reduced to conducting services in a run-down double-wide trailer hard by the Atlantic Ocean on the Rockaway peninsula in Queens.

As in many other synagogues, members are setting up additional seating — in Derech Emunoh’s case, beyond the usual 20 or so mismatched chairs and sagging sofa — for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur services. They are clearing the dirt parking area and walkway of debris, weeds and trash where the trailer sits — amid a desolate construction site for one of the largest residential development projects underway in New York City.

But the leaders of Derech Emunoh (pronounced DEH-rekh eh-mun-AH) are also scrambling to find a new home, since the developer of the $1 billion project — Arverne by the Sea, which is eventually expected to include 2,300 houses and condominiums on 117 acres — has ordered the Orthodox synagogue to vacate the trailer right after Yom Kippur, on Sept. 28, to make way for the bulldozers and backhoes.

Once an architectural gem that drew 800 people on Saturday mornings, Derech Emunoh — Hebrew for “path of faith” — has made its hard-luck home in the trailer since a fire in 2002 destroyed its building.