... the center ... has hosted educational classes on Noahide Laws, the seven basic moral imperatives for all mankind given to Noah, according to the Talmud.
A Temple Not Just For Jews
Buyer envisions Masonic hall as city cultural center
Nancy Madsen - Watertown Daily Times
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
The executive director of the Adirondack Jewish Center Inc. envisions Watertown's Masonic Temple as a cultural resource for the entire community.
Yaakov M. Getz, who has a doctorate in psychology, and his wife, Golda Y., both observant Jews, started the Adirondack Jewish Center in 2003. They opened a location in J.B. Wise Place in December 2004 and stayed a few years until the building changed ownership.
"We want it very much to be a community-oriented facility," said Mr. Getz, who has rabbinical training and functions as a rabbi in kosher food certification and the center's classes.
Last week, a state Supreme Court judge approved the sale of the downtown landmark by the Masonic Hall Association of Watertown to the center for $128,500. The purchase will transfer the property from one nonprofit group to another. The association has been trying to sell the neoclassical hall at 242 Washington St. since November 2003, with an initial asking price of $499,000.
Mr. Getz said he was first interested in the building several years ago.
"It is a magnificent building," he said. "I fell in love with it immediately."
The center is working toward a contract with an engineering firm. The first goal is to stabilize the exterior as quickly as possible. Mr. Getz expects the building costs to total over $1 million. The work would be supported through fundraising and any grants and economic development agency funding the center could qualify for, he said.
Like the first center, the Masonic Temple will house a community center and place of worship. But it likely also will host art exhibits, speakers, concerts and community events, Mr. Getz said. And the center will have a program of certifying products from local businesses as kosher.
"The emphasis will be on small businesses — getting them started in certification for a modest cost," he said. "We can act as a support and guidance for them, introducing them to potential customers and distributors. We can act like a matchmaker and open up opportunities for marketing their products."
Mr. Getz said that program will encourage sales and job growth for local businesses, draw more observant Jews to the area and offer some support for the center's programs.
The Getzes have spent most of the last 20 years in the north country. Mr. Getz certifies as kosher dairy products from about 15 sources.
"The religious programming is a relatively small portion of what we do," he said. "We will focus more on the community and development issues and get that rolling."
The nonprofit center is starting a newsletter to connect Jews from Watertown to Plattsburgh, Mr. Getz said.
"One of our goals is to revitalize Jewish life in the north country," he said.
Since the center's last location closed, it has hosted educational classes on Noahide Laws, the seven basic moral imperatives for all mankind given to Noah, according to the Talmud.
The Getzes have volunteered as chaplains at Samaritan Medical Center and in the state prison system.
They also want to restart a children's day camp and host programs for military service members through Fort Drum. The Getzes already host holiday meals and other events for soldiers.
"Jewish service members, as a group, are quite small and extraordinarily isolated," Mr. Getz said. "We try to provide a home away from home."
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