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Forest Hills Jewish Center to Redevelop its Site, 10-story Building that will include Synagogue to Replace it

Forest Hills Jewish Center (QP)

Forest Hills Jewish Center (QP)

Jan. 17, 2018 By Tara Law

The Forest Hills Jewish Center will be demolished and replaced by a 10-story mixed used building that will include the synagogue, classrooms and other amenities.

The synagogue is preparing to partner with a developer to reconstruct its 106-06 Queens Boulevard facilities. The center will own and operate a section of the new building when its complete.

The new facilities will include classrooms, a ballroom, offices and a synagogue. Specific details on the new structure are still being finalized.

During construction, all of the center’s activities, including the synagogue and the school programs, will move into a temporary modular facility on Austin Street.

The building’s age, rising costs and the smaller size of the community have made the move necessary, said Deborah Gregor, the executive director. The current synagogue can seat 1,200 to 1,300 congregants— “bigger than we need,” she said.

The Forest Hills Jewish Center provides minyan daily, a preschool, various educational programs and other services.  Approximately 500 families are currently members of the community.

The congregation was founded in 1931 on Kessel Street, and it moved into its current building in the late 1940s.

“We want to make sure that we are responding to the community that exists now,” Gregor said. “It’s time for this congregation to plan for the next 75, 80, 100 years.”

The developer, who Gregor declined to name, will pay for the construction of the new building in exchange for the land.

The project has been in the works for 20 years, but changes to the zoning laws now permit the project to go forward, Gregor said.

In 2018, the center’s administration will present the proposal to the congregation for approval. The plans will then be passed on to the Attorney General for approval, a process that typically takes four to six months.

A modular structure will be constructed in 2019 if the plans are approved, and the center will move into the structure that year. The existing building will likely be demolished that year.

The temporary structure will look something like “Legos,” Gregor said. It will likely be 2-stories, and have bathrooms, air-conditioning, windows, a prep kitchen and other amenities.

Gregor declined to say exactly where the structure will be built, but said that the center would lease the land where it will be located.

Selfhelp Community Services, an independent program that takes place at the synagogue, will also be relocated to the modules.

The center aims to avoid cancelling its services for “even one day,” Gregor said while the transition takes place.

Construction of the new building will likely take two and a half to three years.

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21 Comments

Jeffrey Brauwerman

Bar Mitzvahed by Rabbi Bokser and Cantor Zvi Aroni in 1958.

Taught by Mrs. Bergman and Tripkowitz.

I will miss the Synagogue which replaced Kessel Street

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Lenni Newman

We lived one block away from the Kessel Street synagogue. The congrgation was led by Rabii Boxer and Cantor Gorsky. My mother led the choir on Friday nights. It was small, and a bit dingy but it was community and family. The Queens Boulevard building opened when I was in my early teens. Everything was different. It was big, cold and rich. I may have entered this building two or three times. Things change…

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Hinda Rabinowitz

Went to Hebrew School there in the 60’s. Forest Hills was a beautiful neighborhood. I too feel like I got punched in the gut. I guess nothing lasts forever.

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Randy Baer

My parents were founding members (apparently, the nearby Midway movie theater was the original location for services). I went to Hebrew school there, and was Bar-Mitzvah in 1961 by Rabbi Bokser. My father gave a silver torah crown to the synagogue in honor of that event. But, of course, things change. When I was back in Forest Hills last January for my mother’s funeral, I learned of the situation of FHJC. Too bad, they couldn’t have agreed on a merger with Rego Park JC several years ago. I’ll never forget the Ben Shahn ark. Incredible!

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Ira Fuchs

Hi Randy! Just seeing this news. Very sad to think this building will be (or has been) demolished. I have so many memories that revolve around FHJC. I also have wonderful memories of you and your parents. I hope you are well. Shana Tovah!

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Greg Jacobs

Very shocking and surprising. Rabbi Bokser brought me back to my Judaism in a very brief moment of time and I loved him and FHJC very much.

I do hope they preserve the gorgeous ark for the new building.

And I do understand the problem. Modern American Jewry has many failures and issues that create these kinds of problems.

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Sean

St. Patrick’s Catherdal is sitting on a few billion dollars of air rights. The membership dwindles but the costs of running a pool can be upwards of 100k a year.

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Amy

Give it time… I’m also sure that St. Patrick’s has many different sources of income that help keep it going. Even St. John the Divine had to subdivide & build apartments on its property.

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Amy

I think that people are not realizing how much money it takes to run such a large facility, the sanctuary, the pool, the school…. doing this will give the synagogue money to be able to do more things. Many synagogues and churches do this to use the money they have in their real estate. Yes, perhaps their membership is shrinking – but it is still sizable & the school does a lot of good work.

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sheri

I have many happy memories of FHJC!!! Hard to believe this icon, i grew up with will no longer be a fixture on Queens Blvd. Another synagogue should
merge or take it over and maintain its historical beauty!!!

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Doug

Continuity in a shrinking community is key, I can’t imagine FHJC will retain it’s 500 family membership let alone attract new members in the three years of dormancy. Perhaps a new facility will attract new members? I hope I’m wrong but after going to services once or twice in a trailer, will people return? Are parents going to continue to send their children to modular trailers for religious school and youth group when their are other options in the neighborhood? On paper, a new physical plant is a great idea, however the temporary space and time is not likely on the side of success.

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R

The worst thing is that they ( to be careful I will say “probably”) will so the new project with a non jewish company (again “Probably” ) Arabs.
Very sad. Very very disappointing….
Very bad for the community.

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Edna Levy Shalev

My daughter went there for pre-K and K and her SSSQ graduation took place there. We lived close by. But the demographics changed and there are more various Asians living there now. The kids moved and the parents got older. It’sxa Pity but then Forest Hills is not what it was in the 1980/90s.

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Shulem.

Its a failure of a conservative movement. You don’t hear that orthodox shulls have to reconstruct due to dwindling membership. Inadequate Jewish education that what is to blame

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Paul Eilenberg

Not a great friend of Habad, but it would insure that the building & congregation would have a future.

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Hannah Miller

I think it’s a disgrace to even think about tearing down this icon of a building. It’s a slap in the face to all who came before the current membership. Generations of boys and girls, who learned, played, swam, prayed and enjoyed community there, all gone!

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Paul Eilenberg

I attended Hebrew School there from 1957 onward and I celebrated my Bar Mitzvah there in January of 1962. Rabbi Ben Zion Boxer officiated. For a reason I cannot fathom as I have not been there for many years, I feel like someone just punched me in the chest. Every one of my peers either went there or to Rego Park Jewish Center. I also swam there in their basement pool several times a week while in Jr High & High School. I am feeling a profound sense of loss.

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