Boyle Heights - Is the Breed Street Shul close to being fully renovated? It depends on how you look at it.
The back building, of course, is completely rehabilitated and has been in use since 2011, the LA Conservancy says. As for the front building, which is the most prominent part of the complex, 75% of it has been structurally reinforced, according to Daniel Tenenbaum, who is vice chair of the Breed Street Shul Project and a commissioner with the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles.
But that remaining 25%? It’s going to cost $2 million to finish, Tenenbaum said.
“Raising $2 million for structural work is not a sexy ask,” said Tenenbaum, as he gave a recent update to the Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council’s Planning and Land Use Committee.
This front structure is the last brick masonry building that has not been fully structurally reinforced, Tenenbaum said. The Breed Street Shul compound itself is also the last of the 30 synagogues that once stood in the Boyle Heights area.
When it’s all done, the goal is not to have a synagogue again for all the Jews who have left the neighborhood, but instead to offer facilities for the current residents of Boyle Heights.
The back building has already been used by the Boyle Heights Youth Orchestra, and has hosted art showings and other art activities.
As for the larger building, the plan is to use the basement as office space for nonprofits that serve the local community - possibly immigration or job retraining services. The main sanctuary has good acoustics and should function well as a venue for live performances or community meetings. Another section of the building is to become a sort of museum - with exhibits on the various peoples that have made Boyle Heights their home, Tenenbaum said.
The wood-framed back building - the one that’s fully fixed up - was constructed in 1915 for an orthodox congregation that had been meeting in private houses near First Street. The larger, Byzantine Revival structure in front was dedicated in 1923.
These buildings were active when - in Tenenbaum's words - Boyle Heights had the largest Jewish community west of the Mississippi. The synagogue, as Congregation Talmud Torah, was designated by the city as a Historical-Cultural Monument in June 1988.
But as Boyle Heights Jewish community dwindled over the decades, the temple ceased holding services in 1996, according to paperwork filed with the National Register of Historic Places. The city eventually foreclosed on the property, but then quitclaimed it in July 2000 to the Breed Street Shul Project, which has been developing it ever since.
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