Community rallies around Northeast Philly synagogue after anonymous complaint jeopardizes its landmark signs

Pat Loeb
December 19, 2019 - 3:48 pm
Congregations of Shaare Shamayim sign.

Courtesy of Congregations of Shaare Shamayim sign.

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A synagogue in Northeast Philadelphia is fighting to keep its trademark signs after an anonymous complaint to the Department of Licenses and Inspections, and the effort got a big boost from the local community Wednesday night.

The signs at the Congregations of Shaare Shamayim have been up for at least 40 years, according to executive director Jacques Lurie.

"One of the signs in question is a sign that lists the 13 congregations that have merged here. They're congregations from throughout Northeast Philadelphia and it really tells the history of the Jewish community in Philadelphia," Lurie explained. 

Lurie said he never received any complaints directly so he was taken aback when inspectors showed up, prompted by a 311 call, and told him the signs had never been permitted and couldn't be now without a variance because they were larger and closer to the sidewalk than allowed. 

L&I spokesperson Karen Guss said it's not unusual for some structures to escape notice, unless there's a complaint.

"Given the importance of the other work that we have, we don't go around looking for that sort of thing," Guss said. 

Now, the synagogue will get a variance from the Zoning Board to keep the signs. Their case looks a lot better after the Bustleton Civic Association voted 68 to one to support the variance. 

The hearing is scheduled for next month.