Newsworthy Articles

News and Media Update May 5, 2023

Congregations Serving Communities In Need

Temple Emanu-El in Manhattan has transformed their basement into ‘Project Prom’ where students in need can come pick out dresses, shoes and accessories for their high school prom. Volunteers act as personal shoppers and help students “Say Yes to the Dress” and give them the full dress-shopping experience.

All congregations don’t have the same landscape, but they still find ways to create space and make an impact.

The Jewish community in High Point, North Carolina consists of about 35-40 people. Twice a year for the High Point Furniture Market thousands of people from the furniture industry are in town for the expo – hundreds of them being Jewish. 

For the past 10 years, coinciding with the furniture expo, Chabad of Greensboro has been renting a showroom at High Point Furniture Market for Jews to come rest, pray, and eat a kosher meal while in town. 

Chabad has opened about 3,500 centers in more than 100 countries for Jews to have a place to come together as a community. 

Blair Jonas of Minneapolis, right, leads the evening prayer on April 23, 2023, at the Chabad showroom during the High Point Furniture Market in High Point, North Carolina. RNS photo by Yonat Shimron

70 miles east of High Point, in Durham, North Carolina, a network of churches are using vacant church buildings to house refugees. This new initiative through the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina encourages churches to refurbish unused buildings or spaces and outfit them into affordable housing for refugees and those in need.

In addition to housing refugees, houses of worship and faith-based groups are helping immigrants become citizens and acclimate to their new home.

Churches United for Fair Housing in Brooklyn (CUFFH) is partnering with Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and Queens and St. Pius V Church in Jamaica, Queens to support recently arrived asylees in NYC by providing training and education to help them thrive in a new country. 

CUFFH offers a variety of services to help asylees acclimate from workshops on navigating the Open Lottery to helping understand new cultural norms, reducing isolation, and financial literacy. 

St. James Lutheran Church in Lake Forest, Illinois helped Mapenzi, a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo, gain citizenship in the U.S. They helped sponsor her and make her feel welcome in a new country. 


Redeveloping and Renovating Houses of Worship 

The two-year renovation project of Ansche Chesed, a synagogue in the Upper West Side, is now complete. The new features of the synagogue include an elevator to improve accessibility, a much bigger lobby, more bathrooms, an upgraded security system, and more. 

“It was dark and it was not terribly welcoming and now we’ve opened it up in so many ways — greater light, more welcoming and easier to get around, especially for folks who use wheelchairs and walkers,” says Jeremy Kalmanofsky, senior rabbi at Ansche Chesed. 

On the Lower East Side, a new residential project adjacent to St. Augustine’s Church is brewing. A Certificate of Appropriateness is being considered for the church to preserve and protect it as new development projects arise. The plans propose a 20-story mixed use building that includes affordable housing, retail and community spaces. 

St. Augustine’s Church on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Photo from The Lo-Down

Local Law 97

New York City buildings will face fines if they don't make climate upgrades. The city council has passed new legislation – Local Law 97 – requiring the owners of large buildings to make energy-efficient upgrades by 2025 or face significant fines. The legislation aims to reduce the carbon footprint of buildings, which are responsible for about 30% of the city's greenhouse gas emissions.

Last year we held a series of events on Preparing Your House of Worship for New Environmental Laws – one on What They Mean for FBOs and a follow-up on Bringing Your House of Worship Into Compliance. These new laws, including LL97, will bring new energy efficiency regulations and requirements for buildings in New York City, including houses of worship.

Faith-based organizations do have alternative paths to compliance, but must take action now!

Want to know more about how LL97 may affect your house of worship? Check out our resource.

Looking to preserve your space through a variety of creative strategies?