Van Cortlandt Jewish Center fate is once again in limbo

Two tenants on monthly lease at the Sedgwick Ave location as building is prepped to be sold


The building that houses the Van Cortlandt Jewish Center, a modern Orthodox synagogue in Van Cortlandt Village, is on the market, according to its board chair Jack Kleinfeld.

Its two primary tenants — the Jewish Association Serving the Aging and the Mosholu Montefiore Early Childhood Center — agreed to go a month-to-month lease at the 3880 Sedgwick Ave. address as their current leases expired.

“Both the board and the membership have voted to sell the building and have been involved in multiple meetings on this issue” Kleinfeld told The Riverdale Press.

As for the early childhood center, they will go month to month as of Sept. 1 and have agreed to stay on until at least August 2024, Kleinfeld said.

While Kleinfeld said he could not give details about negotiations for the sale or the future of the temple, he did say the congregation is here to stay. They will just need a building that is walking distance of where they live since they are Orthodox.

A search on Property Shark shows the 33,331-square-foot property is valued at $3.28 million.

It has four floors, including tenant space on the first floor where JASA is located. Mosholu Montefiore is on the second and third floors. The building, which was erected in 1961, is owned by the synagogue.

This was not the first time the Van Cortlandt Jewish Center was close to closing or relocating. Around 2012, the education department stopped renting space for its special education programs during the school year. That left the temple with $100,000 in rental income to make up.

Later that year, Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz announced a lease agreement was reached between the synagogue and the Mosholu Montefiore Community Center to lease two floors.

Eventually, the DOE moved into a public school on Jerome Avenue because there was available space.

JASA members such as Phillip Baiser, a former Jewish center board member who recently resigned, said the closure would impact the Van Cortlandt Village community.

“There are about 50 older adults sitting together and connecting,” he said. “The words in Hebrew Kiddush Hashem — the holiness of God — God gets joy from this place, and it’s a disgrace that they’re closing.”

He described it as the older adults will be left twisting in the wind. Most members live several blocks from the center near or in the Amalgamated Housing Corp. co-op.

The synagogue’s board disputes Baiser on this.

The synagogue has its expenses in the sense that it’s an old building, and the roof and elevator need to be repaired.

Meanwhile, according to city data, 67 Stevenson Place, a “mansion,” is owned by the synagogue, and according to Baiser, it is worth at least $500,000, and the Van Cortlandt Jewish Center owns it. His proposal was “sell the secular to save the holy.”

Selling that property would not only help the financial need, it will give the center a cushion in their bank to do what they want, including repairs, Baiser said.

But “sell the secular to save the holy” did not sit well with the board as they allegedly attacked him for the idea.

“Something shady is going on,” he explained, as there was no transparency.

Again, the synagogue board disputes Baiser’s assertion.

“They thought that these older adults would sit quietly and do nothing, but they wrote a petition,” Baiser said.

Since the attorney general needs to approve the sale of the 3880 Sedgwick Ave. property, 64 signatures were on three complaints — including five letters that were submitted to the complaints division of the attorney general.

The complaints came from the two tenants.

The complaints center around the synagogue not renewing the leases with JASA and the early childhood center. In the case of JASA, members filed two complaints with the state charities division citing that the synagogue knew it was going to sell the building in 2019 but that an acceptable buyer had not been found. The complaint goes on to say the synagogue did nothing to dissuade JASA from leaving or asking them to renew their lease for at least one more year.

Baiser went as far as contacting Dinowitz to see if he could help. But in an email, the Assemblyman was upset at the possibility of losing the center. in the community. But he also claimed elected officials have no control over whether a house of worship stays open or not.

Van Cortlandt Jewish Center, JASA, Jewish Association Serving the Aging, Mosholu Montefiore Early Childhood Learning Center, Jack Kleinfeld, 3880 Sedgwick Avenue, stnagogue, lease, sale