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Friday, July 25, 2014

Van Cortlandt Jewish Center struggles to survive

By Adam Wisnieski
Posted
Marisol Díaz/The Riverdale Press
The Van Cortlandt Jewish Center, located at 3880 Sedgwick Ave. since 1965, may be forced to move for lack of funds.

Correction appended

The Van Cortlandt Jewish Center may be forced to close because the synagogue, which has called Sedgwick Avenue its home since 1965, is having financial difficulties.

After the Department of Education stopped renting space at the center last year, VCJC’s leaders have been scrambling to find a new tenant to rent space in the building. They haven’t had any luck, and while they continue to look for a new tenant they are now also aggressively fundraising.

The Van Cortlandt Jewish Center was founded in 1927 and was originally housed in a single room. In 1947, it moved into a converted mansion on Gouverneur Avenue, finally finding a permanent home, its current location, at 3880 Sedgwick Ave., in 1965.

For the past five decades, the center has hosted daily and holiday prayer services, as well as community and cultural events. Robert Gillman, president of VCJC, said the National Conference of Synagogue Youth, Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous have used space at the synagogue for meetings.bi

The center also leases space to the JASA Van Cortlandt Senior Center, which would find itself without a home if the building were to close.

The center’s financial woes began after the Department of Education terminated its lease in August. For years, the DOE rented two of VCJC’s four floors and, most recently, used the space for special education programs during the 2011-2012 school year. 

The special education students were moved to MS 237 on Jerome Avenue, according to Department of Education spokesman David Pena, who said the DOE no longer needed the VCJC space because it had space available at a nearby school. 

According to VCJC, the loss of the DOE as a tenant amounts to more than $100,000 per year. 

“We have to have income coming in, otherwise we can’t pay our bills. Because of fuel, electricity, it’s killing us,” said Mr. Gillman.

Members interviewed for this story described the Van Cortlandt Jewish Center as a “landmark” in the Van Cortlandt Village community.

Renee Stoller, who has been a member since before VCJC moved into its current location in 1965, said she can’t imagine her community without the synagogue.

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