Canarsie Says Goodbye To Temple Shaare Emeth
By Charles Rogers
Canarsie’s Jewish population is saying a fond goodbye this week to a spiritual friend that has seen them through more than four decades.
Temple Shaare Emeth, a Con- servative synagogue that served sometimes as many as 400 to 500 families, has officially closed its doors.
Rabbi Raoul Shorr, spiritual leader of the temple in recent years, is now gone and the synagogue’s administrative activities are being handled by Gladys Rayburn, who, by her own admission, has been "literally a part of it" for the past 38 years, "almost from the beginning."
In 1960, in what was considered an "unprecedented" move, two large Canarsie Jewish congregations came to an agreement that they would merge, and, with the swift signatures of the principles, the New Flatlands Jewish Center and the Farragut Park Jewish Center became one.
According to officials of the centers, the merger would create a unified, Conservative Jewish Center "to be located in the area of East 79th Street to East 85th Street between Foster Avenue and Flatlands Avenue." The dream of virtually hundreds of congregants finally began to come true when groundbreaking ceremonies for what would eventually become Temple Shaare Emeth took place at the corner of East 78th Street and Farragut Road.
"It was a beautiful structure then, as it is now," said Rayburn, wistfully. "All the excitement that led up to its establishment comes back easily when I see these old photos of the groundbreaking ceremonies and other items from past years."
The groundbreaking took place on the first day of Chanukah in December, 1961, with New York City Council President Abe Stark being the most prominent official.
Only three years later it opened its doors and became Temple Shaare Emeth, with a congregation of more than 200 families to begin with, eventually to serve many, many more.
Mrs. Rayburn said that, sadly, because of so many of its congregants "moving out to Florida and elsewhere" in recent years, the size of the congregation diminished to "about 20."
"We just couldn’t go on," she said.
The synagogue was bought early this year by the Yeled V’ Yalda School, a Head Start facility, according to Rayburn.
The sanctuary is — and will remain — intact, complete with the two Torahs. The scores of memorial plaques are being tended to by officials of the school and the facility may still be used for social gatherings and civic association meetings.