California budget to include $14.9 million to restore 106-year old synagogue

Breed Street Shul in Boyle Heights was founded in 1915 by Easter European Jews but fell out of use after WWII when community moved away.

Dan Verbin ,

Los Angeles
Los Angeles

California’s recently passed 2021 budget will include $14.9 million for the restoration of a 106-year old Los Angeles synagogue listed as a landmark by the National Register of Historic places that has been in disrepair for decades.

The Breed Street Shul in the Boyle Heights neigborhood was once the spiritual home of the largest Jewish community in the western United States, reported the Jewish Journal.

When it opened its doors in 1915, it served a community of 75,000 Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. However, after World War II, the Jewish community moved away from the area as freeways enabled the growth of the city outward. Eventually, the neighborhood became mainly Latino.

The Shul was neglected for years and fell into decay. It was nearly demolished on multiple occasions, with members of the Jewish and Latino communities coming to its rescue each time. Two decades ago, a movement began to give the Shul recognition and it was added to the National Register of Historic places.

Since then, it has been slowly renovated using tax incentives and private funds. It is also used on a part-time basis for holiday celebrations by the Jewish community.

The previous funding was only enough to ensure the building was in good enough condition to avoid being demolished, but could not pay for a real renovation.

Stephen J Sass, the founding president of the Shul’s board, described to the Journal being “excited beyond words” at the news of the state funds, adding he and the board were grateful for the grant. He called it the Shul’s “shehecheyanu [renewal] moment.”

The founding president of the Shul’s board, Stephen J. Sass, says that he and the board are “excited beyond words.” Sass expressed his and the board’s thanks for the multi-million-dollar appropriation as the Shul’s “shehecheyanu [gratitude] moment.”

He explained that 25 years ago this week, the Shul was falling to pieces, with parts of the building exposed to the outside and a lack of fencing allowing vandals to deface the property. Back then the city council allocated money to fence the property and transfered the land title to the board, which began the slow process of restoration.

“As the chair of the (State Assembly’s Jewish Caucus), each of us does a lot to serve our districts but we want to do things that serve the Jewish community and the community more broadly,” said state assembly member Jesse Gabriel, the chair of the California Legislative Caucus and a former employee of the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles who organized the Shul’s first Passover ceder in decades in 2012.