Tuesday, January 08, 2013

No bids at IRS auction of Yeshiva 

The IRS received no bids at its auction last week of the Yeshiva Academy and Yeshiva Achei Tmimim synagogue, and has released the Newton Avenue property back to the religious organization.

The federal liens against the property, which total $472,000, remain.

But the prospect of federal agents changing the locks of the 22 Newton Ave. synagogue and Hebrew day school — and forcing out the congregation that built the building in 1959 — is no longer imminent.

"That was the news I was praying for," Rabbi Mendel Fogelman said in an interview in his office Monday afternoon. "Obviously, we have a long way to go. We'll have to wait and see if we can work out a deal with the IRS."

While the ordeal and possible loss of the his congregation's home, school and spiritual center was daunting, he said he has been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from the Jewish community — from Worcester, New York and abroad. More than 170 individuals have donated more than $47,000 on savetheyeshiva.com, with some donations coming from as far away as Australia and South Africa.

But it is still only 10 percent of what the Yeshiva owes to the IRS in payroll taxes, dating to 2004.

"We are enthused by the outpouring of help, which literally came from throughout the whole world," he said. "It's a testament to the wonderful work my father and mother have done for 60 years."

His father, 90-year old Rabbi Hershel Fogelman, has been the leader of the synagogue and school for many years. He recently has fallen ill, and is recovering at the Jewish Healthcare Center.

Rabbi Mendel Fogelman said the hard work of paying off the organization's loans and liens will continue.

"We have to work hard; we're still trying to raise funds for this building," he said. "But I want to say, we're not limited to square footage. Our community is the 5,000 or 6,000 Jews in the region. We will continue to nourish their souls and instill Jewish pride in them."

The school, which once had as many as 130 students in kindergarten through Grade 12, has dwindled to 30 students.

"We've never turned away any Jewish child here for lack of funds," he said. "Whatever we needed, we went out and raised the money; we made sure every child who needed an education received one."

In addition to the IRS tax bill, the synagogue and school also owe thousands of dollars to the city of Worcester in unpaid water and sewer bills, and they also owe money to National Grid. In 2011, Commerce Bank foreclosed on the former girls' dormitory building on Midland Street, and it was sold to a member of the congregation, Steven Gaval, for $61,000.

Rabbi Fogelman said despite the financial problems facing Yeshiva, the synagogue continues to hold three services a day, holds nightly classes on a range of topics, like how to make Challah or a Torah studies class.

The synagogue has regular meetings with local college students as well as regular community parties.

Over the holidays in December, hundreds of people came through the building, he said.

"We have a full, active schedule of events," he said.

He is hopeful that in the coming days and weeks perhaps someone will walk through the door "to give us a big boost that we so richly deserve."


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