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Shaare Shamayim votes to move

Congregations of Shaare Shamayim members voted 152-19 on Sunday to proceed with a sale of the synagogue, 9768 Verree Road in Bustleton.

The synagogue has been on Verree Road since 1963 and had no plans to leave.

However, the Block Church – which has sites at Sprinkler Fitters 692 in the Far Northeast, the old FOP Lodge 5 at 1336 Spring Garden St. and in Port Richmond and Roxborough – made an unsolicited offer.

Though executive director Jacques Lurie declined to give a sale price, sources say the offer was for about $5 million.

The synagogue’s executive and general boards unanimously voted to recommend a sale.

The congregation – made up of about 300 families – needed to give the final approval, which it did during a meeting Sunday at the synagogue.

Shaare Shamayim is expected to move to the site of Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel – known by most as KI – at Township Line and Old York roads in Elkins Park.

Shaare Shamayim would use the space occupied by Melrose B’nai Israel Emanu-El, which is merging with another synagogue.

Lurie said negotiations are ongoing with the Block Church and leasing details are being worked out with KI.

There were about 15 speakers at Sunday’s meeting, which was open only to members. Lurie said synagogue leaders were transparent with the process. He and Fran Gabriel, president of the synagogue, were among the speakers.

Lurie described the back and forth as meaningful dialogue, with everyone respectful. While Lurie said the sale and relocation are difficult issues, the infusion of money will “dramatically” extend the life of the congregation. The money will be used for operating costs, including payments to KI.

There is no date yet for settlement. Once the move is made, Shaare Shamayim will provide transportation assistance for members who live near the current site. Lurie, who lives in Northampton Township, said there aren’t many members who live in the Elkins Park area.

After the move, Shaare Shamayim will remain in the Northeast Kehillah while also being a member of the Old York Road Kehillah. ••

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