By Tevy Pilc
B’nai Brith Canada
A historic synagogue in Saint John, N.B.,is on the chopping block after city council voted it was abandoning a search for a buyer.
The Shaarei Zedek Synagogue, which was built in 1871, has been owned by the city since 2008. It was intended to be included in a multi-million dollar plaza project but has instead sat empty for almost eight years. The city had been looking for buyers with the hope the building being turned into something new but has failed to do so.
That failure culminated in a council vote last week that declared the building as “surplus land”, which is land essentially unneeded to help improve the surrounding area, which is owned by the city. Thus, the city has deemed the best option for the land is to have the building demolished.
The building in fact originally served as a Calvin Presbyterian Church but was converted into a synagogue in 1918. According to Canada’s Historic Places register, congregation membership peaked around 250 families in the 1960s.
Norman Hamburg, president of the Jewish congregation told CBC that “any significant items were removed are being safely preserved at the Jewish Museum.”
Hamburg added: “It seems crazy to just let an old building become more and more deteriorated over time and be empty.”