Ky's oldest Orthodox congregation debates synagogue's future

Ky's oldest Orthodox congregation debates synagogue's future

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Kentucky's oldest Orthodox synagogue, Congregation Anshei Sfard, is debating whether dwindling membership and dollars will compel a sale of its campus on Dutchmans Lane adjacent to the Jewish Community Center.

Or perhaps, even a closure.

"We are reviewing what our choices are,"  Dr. Roy Hyman, president of  Anshei Sfard's Board of Directors, said Sunday. "We're down to about fifty members."

Russian immigr ants founded Anshei Sfard in 1892. Membership had grown to almost 300 families by 1971 when it absorbed another Orthodox congregation, according to the Encyclopedia of Southern Jewish Communities.

But children have grown up. Some have moved. Members have died.

"Maybe the finances are fine; we don't know," Avram Kahn said. "We're asking the questions, we don't get answers."

Kahn showed WAVE 3 News a letter he received from the Board in July, expelling him from Anshei Sfard, on grounds that he hadn't paid his membership dues and had brought discredit to the congregation by speaking on its behalf without authorization. He called Louisville Metro police when he attended Sunday's board meeting, telling officers he'd been threatened.

"Decisions are made without a quorum," Kahn said, referring to Anshei Sfard's by-laws. "They (the Board) haven't replaced the members who died."

"Information on what we believe to be millions of dollars in the Endowment Fund, we can't get any of that," member Jeffrey Levy said.

With Metro officers as escorts, the Board permitted Kahn to attend its meeting.

Afterward, Dr. Hyman told WAVE 3 News that members discussed the sale of the property, but didn't propose it - much less approve it.

"Some people say we'll get more members if men and women sit together," Dr. Hyman said. "But a person who is truly observant Orthodox, it has to be separate."

"We're looking at creating programming," Levy said. "At re-creating the community we used to have when I was (sic) bar mitzvah'd."

Anshei Sfard houses a Hebrew school.

Some members have offered to improve technology, according to Levy.

"We've created a couple of business plans in cooperation with forty members of the Jewish community," he said.

Members departed Sunday with no decision, Dr. Hyman said.

"We need to move forward," Levy said. "Hopelessness is not a policy."

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