‘Raising the roof’ to preserve history

‘Raising the roof’ to preserve history

Kehilat HaNahar’s building prior to the renovation
Kehilat HaNahar’s building prior to the renovation

New Hope’s historic Kehilat HaNahar has launched a musical series intended to raise funds for the replacement of the synagogue’s roof and other capital improvements.

Synagogue member Howard Parker and his band headlined last month’s “Raise the Roof” benefit concert at John & Peter’s Place in New Hope.

The Dec. 27 event was the first of a music series planned to raise funds for the 19th-century shul building’s capital campaign.

The Reconstructionist congregation, known as the “Little Shul by the River,” will hold a number of other fund-raisers, including a series of Sunday afternoon coffeehouses, to pay back money already borrowed to replace its aging roof as well as undertake other capital improvements, including a new driveway and parking area, lighting, and landscaping.

All of the renovations are being undertaken mindful of the building’s historic status; it is one of 242 buildings in the New Hope community’s historic district.

“We appreciate that this building means a lot to the larger community,” said congregation cofounder and former president Carl Glassman of New Hope.

But the building’s original tin ceilings with decorations, wainscoting, original floors, and a bell tower would sustain damage had the roof not been replaced. “Part of this renovation included making sure this bell tower” stayed in place and that all repairs were done in a “historically correct” manner, Glassman said. A lot of the work was meant “to shine up what was there.”

The shul has had various incarnations prior to its purchase in 1996 by the congregation. Originally known as the Old New Hope School House, the close to 11-acre site was immortalized by artist and New Hope native Joseph Pickett in a 1911 painting, Manchester Valley, which now hangs in New York City’s Museum of Modern Art.

The building later became Albert’s Old School House Inn and was then owned by New Hope restaurateur Pamela Minford for about 30 years before she sold it to the congregation — at a discount.

“She was very helpful,” Glassman said.

Parker, the congregation’s treasurer and a Stockton resident, said that while the congregation borrowed money to replace the roof, the company who did the work, J. Strober & Sons Roofing Contractors in Lambertville, gave the shul “an unbelievable deal.”

“They did it as if we were family,” he said.

The synagogue is seeking local “talent” to perform at its first coffeehouse, scheduled for mid- to late February. A cash-for-gold (and other valuables) fund-raiser was also scheduled for Jan. 17.

Glassman, recalling that his daughter’s bat mitzva coincided the same year as Kehilat HaNahar’s own 13th anniversary, expressed a sense of nostalgia about its past. Just as children are treasures, he said, “the building needed a little tender, loving care, too.”

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