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From shul to school: CB18 greenlights plans for new sanctuary and classrooms at old synagogue

Future learning: Leaders of Rehoboth Open Bible Church want to turn this abandoned shul into a new sanctuary space for their church and a school.
Photo by Jordan Rathkopf

A church seeking a place for its growing flock wants to make space for locals’ little lambs.

Leaders of an East Flatbush church want to turn an abandoned synagogue on E. 56th Street into a new sanctuary space for its congregants and classrooms for a new school.

Rehoboth Open Bible Church currently serves the community from its Avenue D digs, but its sanctuary is busting at the seams and the congregations desperately in need of a larger place to pray — and the plan would also benefit the community and neighborhood youngsters, the pastor told a meeting of Community Board 18 on Sept. 13.

“Right now we are already in the community — we have been serving the community for the last 39 years. Based on our size, we need that additional space. We have the ability and opportunity to meet a need of school-aged kids,” said Rev. Dalton Spencer. “This building has been vacant there for quite some time, and it’s really an eyesore for the community.”

Community Board 18 voted unanimously to approve the zone-busting application to convert the old Glenwood Jewish Center building between Glenwood Road and Avenue H, but the city’s Board of Standards and Appeals must sign off on the project before it can move forward since the plan requires adding additional floors to existing buildings.

Church honchos want to erect two more stories atop what was once a preschool to create a total of 12 new classrooms, and then add another floor atop what was once a sanctuary space to accommodate a gymnasium, according to the application filed with the city.

Rehoboth’s leaders have not decided whether the new school would be a private school or a public charter school, but they hope to open the doors by summer 2019 to welcome roughly 200 students. The school would include kindergarten through second grade to start, but then plan to grow incrementally over the next few years to expand up to fifth grade and then middle school, according to Spencer.

The plans only include four or five additional off-street parking spots, but Spencer tried to reassure the board that the new house of worship space and school —which will be nearby three bus routes along Avenue H — would not create parking congestion.

“You have good access to public transportation so whatever concerns for parking there may be, we will not invade parking — there will still adequate parking for the community,” she said.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.

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