Monday, May 28, 2007

State grant helps restore Phoenix's first synagogue

[Source: Beth Shapiro, Jewish News] -- The Arizona Jewish Historical Society will receive a $150,000 grant from the Arizona State Parks Board to renovate Phoenix's first synagogue, according to Lawrence Bell, AJHS executive director. The synagogue renovation is part of a $4 million campaign to restore the site, now known as the CutlerAPlotkin Jewish Heritage Center, as an educational center, a Jewish history museum, an archive, AJHS offices and a venue for community events. Located at 122 E. Culver St. in Phoenix's cultural corridor adjacent to the Burton Barr Phoenix Public Library, the facility housed Congregation Beth Israel from 1922 until 1949, when it was purchased by a Chinese Baptist church. Later, it was sold to Iglesia Bautista, a Mexican Baptist church. AJHS bought the property in 2002.

According to Vivia Strang, historic preservation grant consultant to the state parks board, the grant is drawn from the state's lottery revenues, which support the state parks' Heritage Fund for wildlife conservation and historic preservation. "It's a competitive grant program, and a great deal of emphasis is placed upon project planning and the public benefit," said Strang. To be eligible, a project has to be more than 50 years old and either on or eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, Strang said. No more than $150,000 can be awarded at one time, but applicants can request more funds for a later phase. Bell told Jewish News that AJHS received the highest rating of all applications for this funding cycle because of the quality of the application and the value and importance of the project to Arizona. "Right now, there is no Jewish site in downtown Phoenix. I think our site will do a great service for the community by providing a Jewish location in the heart of downtown and a place for people of all different backgrounds to come and visit and connect with our community. It will educate non-Jews about who we are and what we've done and how we've contributed to the state and to this country."

[Note: To read the full article, click here. Photo: Concept drawing of CutlerAPlotkin Jewish Heritage Center.]