Should the Ohr Natan synagogue have to relocate, the spiritual lives of hundreds would hang in the balance.
That’s according to Queens Jewish Community Council Executive Director Cynthia Zalisky, who said Monday that a plan to build a mixed-use building at the synagogue’s 98-81 Queens Blvd. location could be a tough blow for the house of worship’s congregants to take.
“Ohr Natan is extremely important. They have upwards of 400 people praying there on Saturdays,” Zalisky said. “It’s a substantial congregation and the impact of its relocation would be tremendous. Many of its congregants are elderly and they don’t have the means of getting to a new synagogue.”
Rudolf Abramov, a principal at building owner RJ Capital Holdings, told the Chronicle last week that the company is interested in constructing an office building at the site, with published reports saying it would be a five-story, 100,000-square-foot structure.
The synagogue would be welcome to stay in the new building, according to Abramov, only if Rabbi Nahum Kaziev, whom he’s had verbal and legal quarrels with over the years, stepped down as its leader.
That isn’t a deal Zalisky would like Ohr Natan to make.
“Rabbi Kaziev has made a tremendous impact on his people there,” she said. “He has an incredibly loyal following. People’s spiritual lives are at stake and they should put that nonsense behind them.”
Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills) agreed with the QJCC executive director, saying Kaziev is too valuable to Ohr Natan.
“He has a congregation of at least 1,000 people. We have other synagogues but he truly has his own congregation,” Koslowitz said. “I know he has a date to be out of there by 2017, but it would be great if he could stay because the congregation loves him.”
Construction permits won’t be filed with the Department of Buildings until RJ Capital Holdings lines up prospective tenants for the site, Abramov said last week.
The synagogue and its landlord have publicly feuded dating back to at least 2013, when Kaziev claimed the house of worship was being evicted to make way for housing.
In 2014, the two entities found themselves in court, with Abramov alleging Ohr Natan was not paying its monthly rent.
But both Koslowitz and Zalisky called on the two to leave all the bad blood in the past so they can hammer out an agreement that’s acceptable to both parties.
“I think they should sit in a room, put their heads together and come up with the best possible solution for the community,” Zalisky said.