“People were saying, ‘this is not OK.’ And they’re still saying it today.”
Doug Victor: My name is Doug Victor, and I live on Princeton Avenue in Elmwood. I’ve been here for 29 years [as of 2012].
When I came into the neighborhood, it was a very different creature back then. It was very, very, very much still struggling with a huge downturn. This was a neighborhood that was assaulted with all kinds of not-so-great stuff. So I think it was at that point I did become aware of the synagogue.
But I will say, that the synagogue always appeared to me to not really be part of the neighborhood. It always felt to me like it had some kind of a retreated definition into itself from the neighborhood. So with that said, I have never had any kind of interaction with anyone who has — was a member of the congregation there. I didn’t know their comings and goings. It was a little mysterious to me. It was kind of retreated. So I never got to know the synagogue in the way that I got to know other structures in the city, in this neighborhood, and also, other neighbors.
Barrier is a strong word, but it didn’t feel like — it just felt like, “Oh yeah, that’s the synagogue.” That was it kind of feeling. “Oh yeah, that’s the synagogue.” And if I had people who were walking around the neighborhood, I would say, “Well that’s the synagogue.” And that would be it. And it never went really any further than that. Until there was some discussions about the synagogue and what was going to happen to it, because the congregation was shrinking fast and was getting aged and who knew.
The temple felt kind of like a stranger, but it was also something that was, I think, there, and part of our neighborhood because of the style of the building and the presentation of the building to Broad Street. Kind of an anchor, if you will, on that corner.
The vast damage and degradation of a very important historical cultural-religious structure in my neighborhood really is not OK. And I still have very strong feelings about that, even though people who came in said, “We need to move on.” Why? [laughs] We need to go back! [laughs] We need to go back. We need to hold the people responsible who are responsible for this. And that’s something just in terms of my own sense of ethics, what’s fair and right. I haven’t been able to reconcile that within myself.
I have just witnessed over and over again in the Southside and in the neighborhoods on the Southside and the West End, that these kinds of things are very typical to happen. And nothing is done about it, no. And over and over and over and over again, I’ve heard people say, “if this were the East Side, this would never have happened this way.”
There was no help. There was no help. So we had to witness this building being stripped in the way it was without help.
I’ve actually had conversations with some people who are in positions where I feel like they were promoting, creating different set of preservation standards for the East Side as opposed to the other neighborhoods in the city. I just couldn’t even believe it. So our neighborhood bears a lot more as a result of that. There’s a lot more suffering here. And that building, the copper taken off of that building, was very distressful and caused a lot of suffering for a lot of people who work and live in this neighborhood. Who perhaps really had no real understanding of Orthodox Judaism or even – or familiarity with the people who used it, but knew the building. And people were saying, “this is not OK.” And they’re still saying it today.
I’ve always maintained, whatever happens with that building, I think there needs to be some kind of a statement made within the building itself, and maybe even signage in the front, to really talk about the importance of that building to the community, and the history and the place that that building has had.
Real community is where everybody can have a place, an identified place, where you have a sense of belonging within that structure. Vessel, kind of like a vessel. It holds everybody. Makes room. It’s inclusive. It’s a lot of things.