Hindu Society buys Jewish temple in Warwick

It would become the first Hindu temple in Rhode Island, according to the society’s website.

WARWICK, R.I. – Temple Am David, which has been in receivership since November, is expected to soon turn over to new owners – and a new faith.

Theodore Orson, the temple’s temporary receiver, said Wednesday that the Rhode Island Hindu Temple Society Inc. signed a purchase-and-sale agreement in June for $400,001. Kent County Superior Court approved the agreement in July, said Orson, of the Providence law firm Orson and Brusini Ltd.

“I was absolutely thrilled that the purchaser was a group that intended to keep the building for the purpose that it was created” and that it would not be razed for commercial use, he said.

A 20-day appeal period followed the agreement, but the society extended that period so that items inside the temple could be sold “prudently,” Orson said. The closing should take place sometime in September, he said.

Efforts to reach the Rhode Island Hindu Temple Society were unsuccessful. A Hindu temple has been a priority for the group, which began meeting in 2013, according to its website. Rhode Island has no Hindu temple, the website states.

Another bidder, World Harvest Worship Center, agreed to pay $50,000 more than the Hindu Temple Society, but would only close with a mortgage and financing. That made it a minor offer, Orson said.

On Thursday, a viewing of Torahs, menorah and Hanukkah lamps and other items for sale was held at the temple at 40 Gardiner St. People are invited to buy the items Sunday at a fixed price, with the remaining items to be auctioned off later that afternoon.

The auction won’t include remaining Torahs, which Orson described as “most holy.”

“We did not think it would be dignified,” he said. “If they are not sold, we will be placing them with a broker.”

The loss of the synagogue is hard on the community.

About a year and a half ago, Rabbi Richard Perlman left the congregation after it bought out his contract, due to financial constraints.

Temple Am David President Beth Veltri said some people in the congregation followed the rabbi and others left for other temples, diminishing the number that continued to meet at the temple. The temple still holds services, Hebrew school and other events.

But the congregation became so small that “we felt it was in the best interest to file for receivership.”

The congregation has reached out to the Hindu Temple Society in the hopes of sharing the space, Veltri said, adding, “We are still waiting to hear back from them.”

Perlman was a cantor and rabbi at the temple for 15 years before he left about a year and a half ago to lead the West Bay Community Jewish Center.

“Heartbreaking” is the word he repeated often when discussing the sale of Temple Am David.

 “Unfortunately, the world we are living in today is filled with so many churches and synagogues … that are closing,” he said.

For decades, families accumulated many memories at the temple: bar mitzvahs, bat mitzvahs, weddings and funerals, Perlman said.

“It’s crushing to so many people to see this happen after so many generations,” he said.

Sale and auction

Items will be sold at a fixed price Sunday from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Temple Am David, 40 Gardiner St., in Warwick.

At 2 p.m., remaining items will be auctioned. Remaining Torahs will not be auctioned.

Examples of items and prices:

Synagogue lamp, 1935. Provenance: Anna Hazman. Price: $300

Torah crown from the early 20th century, United States. Hebrew and Yiddish inscription. Price: $5,000.

Hanukkah lamp, brass, 1968. Price: $50.


On Twitter: @CarolKozma

(401) 277-7067

Source: Providence Journal