By David A. Schwartz / Sun Sentinel
The Chabad synagogue that fought a zoning war with the City of Hollywood 13 years ago and settled with the city after the U.S. Justice Department came to its side, has closed.
The Chabad Hollywood Community Synagogue moved out of a house at 2215 N. 46th Ave. on Aug. 5, one day before a bank-ordered eviction.
Regions Bank previously repossessed the house next door at 2221 N. 46th Ave. as well as three other Chabad houses, and sold the properties, Rabbi Joseph Korf, the shul’s director, said in a phone call last Friday. The synagogue owed the bank about $800,000, he said. “There is no debt really,” Korf added. “The debt is washed away.”
Congregants recited prayers from the Book of Lamentations on Tisha B’Av, the day that Jews mourn the destruction of the First and Second Temples and the subsequent exile from the Land of Israel, before packing prayer books, furniture and other items and removing them from the single-family house.
The synagogue has had financial problems for “a couple of years,” Korf said, attributing the most recent problems to individuals within the synagogue. “A lot of mistakes were made,” he said.
The Chabad filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in December 2012 but Korf said last week that the synagogue never followed through on the filing.
Its zoning problems began in 2001, the year after the Chabad moved into two single-family houses a block from Sheridan Street. A storefront location in the Post Haste shopping center had been the synagogue’s home for nine years. The city initially forbade the synagogue from expanding on its properties and then denied it a special permit to conduct religious services on the properties.
The U.S. Attorney General’s Office came to the synagogue’s side, filing a lawsuit in 2005. Hollywood settled with the city’s insurer in 2006, giving the synagogue $2 million and agreeing to allow it to stay. The city also allowed the synagogue to demolish the two houses and build a new structure and a parking lot.
However, less than two years later as the local and national economies began to suffer in the Great Recession, the synagogue began to struggle financially.
Now the Hollywood Chabad synagogue, one of five in the city according to a Chabad Lubavitch website, is looking for a new home. The synagogue needs to raise $400,000-$500,000, Korf said.
Korf is holding Shabbat minyan at his Hollywood home and weekday services in a room at a small synagogue in the city. “We need, as soon as possible, to find something,” he said.
The shul closing its doors is very sad and “quite crippling,” Rabbi Zalman Korf of the Chabad of Walnut Creek in Hollywood said in a phone call Friday. However, the Chabad is not closed, he said. “They just lost their homes.”
Rabbi Joseph Biston, of the Chabad of Parkland, said in a call Friday, “It’s a shame to lose a building. I’m sure [Rabbi Joseph Korf] is going to reopen in another location. A Chabad never closes.”