'Save Our Synagogue' is the Plea From Temple Beth Haverim After Serving the Jewish Community in Conejo Valley for 26 Years


Jun 16, 2010, 10:00 ET from Temple Beth Haverim

AGOURA HILLS, Calif., June 16 /PRNewswire/ -- Temple Beth Haverim in Agoura Hills, a conservative synagogue serving the Jewish community of the Conejo Valley since 1984, is faced with losing its site and dispersing its membership on (or shortly after) June 30.  The Temple has fallen victim to the current economic crisis and an out-of-state lender that's unwilling to enter into negotiations for a restructuring of its loan — one based on land prices reflective of a healthier economy.  "Save Our Synagogue" is the heartfelt plea from this tight-knit congregation that is home to hundreds of families in the area.

Temple Beth Haverim welcomes advisement and support from members of the Jewish community, the media, the financial community and other interested parties throughout Southern California.  They can be reached via the Temple office at 818-991-7111.

"It's disheartening that our lender is completely inflexible and unwilling to explore ways to keep our doors open and our community intact. They won't even speak directly with us," said Temple Beth Haverim president David Scherr. "In good faith, we've researched the fair market value, submitted realtor evaluations and comps, and made reasonable offers.  We have a coalition of Temple members prepared to buy the property on behalf of the synagogue if the price is reflective of 2010 value.  We are certain that with a restructured mortgage note our congregation can survive.  In hard times like these, communities are more important than ever."

Temple Beth Haverim's loan is held by the Reliance Trust Company out of Atlanta, GA.  It is believed that no other parties have made offers on the land, which is also home to The Conejo Jewish Day School.  The school would be forced off the property as well if a modification cannot be brought about.  

The Temple sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2008, hopeful that Reliance would at very least engage with them in an honest attempt to restructure the debt. To date, they have been unable to even initiate such discussions.  The June 30 date is pivotal because after that point, the Temple loses its right of first refusal to match other offers made on the property.

Longtime Temple member and past president Martin Spiegel is convinced — as is Scherr — that Reliance is stalling because they think the City of Agoura Hills will purchase the land.  They also believe that Reliance miscalculates that the city, with its deep pockets, will pay a premium to secure it.  "We're aware that the City has interest in the property for a recreation center," says Spiegel. "But we also know, first-hand, that they're not interested in moving in at the expense of our congregation."

Scherr adds, "I think the lender will be surprised that the City is not going to offer them as much as they might expect.  They will probably offer less than what our group is willing to pay to keep our congregation together.  But by then, it will be too late for the Temple."

SOURCE Temple Beth Haverim