Chabad buys old library for Goshen's first free-standing synagogue

Goshen. Chabad raised $455,000 toward the purchase in five days. Rabbi Meir and Rivkie Borenstein say they will retain the structure of the 1918 former library. "People gave over a five-day period and became partners in the purchase of the building, shareholders in the tomorrow's Jewish community of Orange County," said Diane Greenwald.

Goshen /
05 Feb 2020 | 05:01

The beautiful 1918 Goshen library will soon be home to Goshen's first free-standing synagogue.

Chabad of Orange County, based in Goshen and directed by Rabbi Meir and Rivkie Borenstein, purchased the library for Hebrew school classrooms, a children's center, teen lounge, social hall, and administrative offices, in addition to the synagogue.

"Mazal tov to all who will enjoy the new synagogue!" said a thrilled Rabbi Borenstein. "All are welcome!

"With so much hatred and anti Semitism in our world this is how we spread goodness and light!"

Money was raised with lightening speed. Rabbi Borenstein said they raised $455,000 in less than a week.

"People gave over a five-day period and became partners in the purchase of the building, shareholders in the tomorrow's Jewish community of Orange County," said Diane Greenwald.

The total purchase price is $635,000, said Jim Tarvin, a library trustee who was at the closing.

Chabad plans to retain the historical structure of the old library.

"The building itself is so beautiful and perfect for the layout of a house of worship," Rabbi Borenstein said.

"The Jewish community in Orange County and Chabad has finally gotten its very own magnificent huge building, and we are very excited," he added. "It is so heartwarming to see in the past few days how so many people of all faiths are reaching out to congratulate us and to donate toward this great cause. What is unique about this purchase is that the building will be remaining in the hands of a community organization, enabling all locals to always come in and show their children and grandchildren where the library used to be."

Rivkie Borenstein said they've already received calls from people who want to get more involved and have their kids join children’s programs.

Rabbi Meir and Rivkie Borenstein have seven children and have thrived at Chabad, along with many area Jewish families.

When asked if the synagogue would be Orthodox, Conservative or Reformed, Rabbi Borenstein told The Chronicle, "People are not clothing. They have no labels like clothing. Humans don't have labels. Labels are man-made. Everyone's invited to the synagogue. The synagogue is open to all, and there are no fees to become a member."

The rabbi said Chabad's motto is "Don't pay to pray." The new synagogue will be open to everyone. Wealthier people, he said, help pay the bills.

A perfect setting

The Chabad has served many Jewish families over the 16 years since it moved to Goshen. Greenwald said a Chabad member told the rabbi about the library's availability after seeing the sale sign posted out in front. The rabbi said it was one of God's miracles that the library was available for purchase.

Greenwald said "it is so wonderful" -- Jewish people believe in learning, and so a former library is a perfect setting for a synagogue.

Library officials are also elated with this new chapter for the old building at 203 Main Street. Last year the library moved into its modern and spacious new building down the street at 366 Main Street, at Salesian Park. Although it was too small to accommodate the library's growth, the old building was beloved, and many in the community feared it might be torn down or altered beyond recognition.

"We are very pleased to see the building remain available to the community continuing its mission as a space dedicated to teaching and learning, and to the flourishing and preservation of culture," library director Matt Gomm said in a message to The Chronicle. "We wish the new owners the best of luck in what has truly been a landmark in Goshen for over a century, and which will doubtless live on as a vibrant part of our village's life for a long time to come."

The next phase of fundraising began right after a rousing celebration signaled that the building was paid in full. The new phase will secure architectural renderings and design plans for the synagogue within the walls of the former library. If you wish to donate, call Chabad at 845-291-0514 or chabadoc.raisegiving.com Those who wish to mail a check may send it to: Chabad of Orange County, 12 N. Church St., Goshen, NY 10924.

Editor's note: This article has been revised to reflect the correct total purchase price of the building, which is $635,000. The Chronicle regrets the error.

"The Jewish community in Orange County and Chabad has finally gotten its very own magnificent huge building, and we are very excited. It is so heartwarming to see in the past few days how so many people of all faiths are reaching out to congratulate us and to donate toward this great cause. What is unique about this purchase is that the building will be remaining in the hands of a community organization, enabling all locals to always come in and show their children and grandchildren where the library used to be." --Rabbi Meir Borenstein