Sept. 18, 2012 By Christian Murray
The Sunnyside Jewish Center held its first service in its new synagogue on Sunday evening.
Jerry Banberger, the president of the center, said it was fitting that the synagogue opened on the first night of Rosh Hashanah. “Rosh Hashanah represents the Jewish new year– a time for a new start, a new beginning. This is [the temple’s] start.”
In the past, members of the Sunnyside Jewish Center held their High Holiday services at Sunnyside Community Center. However, “nothing beats having your own place.”
The new synagogue, which is located inside a two-family house at 40-20 47th Ave, has taken several years to open. The members purchased the 2,000sqf. residence for $890,000 about six years ago, and since then it has been completely overhauled. Today, there is an elevator for wheel chair access and several stain glass windows have been installed.
The new temple replaces the large synagogue at 45-46 42nd Street, which was several times its size and had been located there since 1939. The members struggled to keep up with the high costs at that location, as their numbers declined. Many younger Jews left to live in the suburbs, while the older members passed away.
The synagogue was sold to real estate developers for $4.95 million. About $2 million of those proceeds has been spent on the new location.
Today there are about 50 members of the Sunnyside Jewish Center. The aim of the new synagogue is to revitalize the Jewish community, as Banberger hopes to attract young families. He is planning on introducing a Hebrew School program for children.
The house’s former basement is now a prayer room, while upstairs there is the sanctuary. The sanctuary caters for about 75 attendees.
Many of the features of the old synagogue have been incorporated into this one – such as a giant Menorah, the sanctuary’s wooden seating (benches), and plaques with the names of deceased members, which are on the walls.