Temple Israel of Wilkes-Barre has signed on to move its Hebrew school and administrative offices to the Center for Jewish Life campus being planned in Kingston, at least on a trial basis.
The Temple Israel congregation, however, will continue to worship in its historic sanctuary on South River Street in Wilkes-Barre, declining an invitation to have a new synagogue constructed on the Kingston campus.
The Jewish Commuity Alliance (JCA) of Northeast Pennsylvania on Tuesday announced the decisions that Temple Israel’s Board of Trustees made at an April 1 meeting.
The religious school move is being undertaken on a three-year “pilot basis,” according to a news release. The congregation is not planning to sell its current religious school building and will have the option to return there after the three years are up.
Paul Lantz, president of JCA, said that if Temple Israel does decide to move the school back to Wilkes-Barre after three years, the space built for it could be put to other use. “We’re trying to make the interior space as flexible as possible,” he said.
The JCA is undertaking a multimillion-dollar campaign to build the new Center for Jewish Life at 601 Third Ave., Kingston. Part of the 13-acre parcel, valued at $3 million, housed the former Price Chopper store and will be donated by Project Home Run LLC.
The Third Avenue campus will replace the Jewish Community Center and Jewish Family Service Building on South River Street.
In moving its operations to the new campus, Temple Israel will join the JCA, the Jewish Community Center of the Wyoming Valley, Jewish Family Services of Greater Wilkes-Barre and the United Hebrew Institute.
Lantz said the news from Temple Israel was “most welcome” and “a great boost to our efforts to create a single hub that serves and represents the entire Wyoming Valley Jewish community.” He expects the school and administrative offices will be ready to open at the new location for the fall 2015 school year.
Rosemary Chromey, Temple Israel’s president, said she was thankful to the Board of Trustees for working through the decision, which “was not made lightly,” as well as to board members who served on task forces that completed analyses.
A final report of the JCA’s Real Estate Committee issued in March 2013 recommended that the area’s three largest synagogues be invited to co-locate on the Kingston campus.
Incentives for each synagogue to join the project include lower overall operating expenses and the ability to raise funds once as part of a community-wide capital campaign. If a synagogue decides not to join the project now, space will be made so the synagogue can join later, but at its own expense, according to the report.
Lantz said Temple B’nai B’rith decided not to opt in to co-locating at the present time, and Congregation Ohav Zedek is still considering it.
Lantz said the project is in the fundraising and building design stages.