ProJo – Service for the Community

While the link to the article isn’t available online, we’re excited to share the text below from the local Providence Journal. Many thanks to Alisha A. Pina for the write-up.

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ProJo
PROVIDENCE

Service for the community
Students spearhead effort to fashion new use for building
March 28, 2012

By ALISHA A. PINA JOURNAL STAFF WRITER

PROVIDENCE

Volunteers are uniting to reveal to others what they already see: a 101-year-old abandoned synagogue’s potential despite its water damage and vandalism.

Students from Rhode Island School of Design and Brown University started the monumental task — several say at least $1 million is needed for its revitalization — this week by tending to the exterior of the former home of Temple Beth-El. They are landscaping, potting plants and adding artwork to cover the boarded-up windows on the vacant shul at Broad and Glenham streets.

“We’re trying to bring awareness to this historic building,” said Sam Seidel, a community service coordinator at RISD and one of two leaders behind the collaborative efforts. “It’s sort of in the balance and we’re trying to tip the scale towards something positive happening there.”

The 1911 building was designed by the firm of Banning & Thornton. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.

Architecture historians and preservationists have pointed to the structure’s Roman brick and Corinthian portico as its best external features. They say the interior was changed to reflect the last congregation’s Orthodox style of worship.

Beth-El occupied the synagogue until 1954. It was home to Shaare Zedek Sons of Abraham until 2006, and then they closed its doors and merged with Congregation Beth Sholom, on the East Side’s Camp Street.

Seidel and Adam Bush contacted the owners last summer when Seidel saw a for sale sign posted.

“Personally, I am enthusiastic about the interest and excitement they have generated, not only recently among student volunteers, but for months now among many others… in South Providence and beyond,” Alan D. Krinsky, president of Beth Sholom, wrote Wednesday in an e-mail. “Adam and Sam have great ideas, and to their credit they have never sought to impose those ideas in developing this project — my understanding is that their wish has always been to bring in other partners to help shape the project’s future.”

Seidel said at a recent community meeting, residents have suggested transforming it into a cultural center that could celebrate the many cultures present in the neighborhood, a recreation center and even an indoor marketplace or bazaar.

“The future is very open,” Seidel said. “I would love to see it be a space that is responsive to the current needs of the community…. The experts that have come in have said the structure is intact, but there is water damage and its [electrical and plumbing] needs to be brought up to code.”

Thieves have even stolen some of the roof’s copper.

“There’s a lot of work to do,” Seidel said, “and we need support and funding, but the potential’s definitely there.”

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