February 24, 2010
Aliyah Offers Aid to Beth Haverim
Temple Aliyah in Woodland Hills is hoping to help shore up Temple Beth Haverim, a Conservative Agoura Hills synagogue in Chapter 11 bankruptcy that is in danger of losing its property. But the assistance being offered isn’t financial, and those involved in the negotiations since Jan. 5 say discussions are focused on an alliance, not a merger.
“The most important thing is they’ve reached out to us. They’ve been wonderful about trying to save the Conservative Jewish community in this area,” Beth Haverim President David Sherr said.
Based on a plan that must be approved by both synagogues’ boards, Aliyah would provide management and programming services to Beth Haverim, but no financial relief. The Agoura Hills campus also would function as an Aliyah satellite, giving members from both access to services and programs at the neighboring synagogues.
Temple Aliyah’s Rabbi Stewart Vogel, who would serve as senior rabbi for both congregations under such an arrangement, says the biggest issues are Beth Haverim’s financial and legal liabilities.
“The model we’ve been working on is predicated on trying to save that property,” Vogel said. “We’re looking at all kinds of creative ways of how to respond to this.”
In papers filed with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in 2008, Beth Haverim estimated its property’s value at about $4.5 million, while its outstanding bond debt was roughly $6.8 million. Sherr says the repayment figure hasn’t changed.
Commercial Realtor CB Richard Ellis listed Beth Haverim’s Ladyface Court campus above $7 million, but Sherr believes the property’s value has decreased to less than $4 million.
Beth Haverim has remained on the property, thanks to a forbearance agreement with the bondholders, which expires on June 30.
Under the management plan, Aliyah would provide Beth Haverim with teachers, support staff and additional rabbinical supervision in an effort to rebuild the campus. Beth Haverim’s Rabbi Gershon Weissman, who was in Israel and was unavailable for comment at press time, would work part time and share the pulpit with another part-time rabbi hired by Aliyah.
Sherr says that reducing staff expenses would allow Beth Haverim to increase its bond payments by $240,000 to $300,000 annually.
“It is the congregation’s feeling that we should pursue staying on the property. And any other discussions are in the background. We’re hoping the help we get from Temple Aliyah’s alliance will help us to do that,” he said.