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September 18, 1987 - Image 24

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-09-18

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Rising From Failure

Adat Shalom is experiencing phenomenal growth
14 years after near-bankruptcy


Special to The Jewish News


, ourteen years ago, Adat
Shalom Synagogue was
poised on the brink of fi-
nancial ruin and public
humiliation. With dwind-
ling membership and an insurmoun-
table debt, its continuation as a
viable congregation was in question.
Today, it is one of the city's largest Rabbi Efry Spectre: Members had Yom Kippur War obligations.
and strongest congregations, with
1,150 members, well-respected clergy
and staff, a new generation of young
and committed lay leaders and a
plethora of programming to meet the
needs of all its constituents.
From despair to glory. How did it
happen? Adat Shalom's story serves
as a warning and an inspiration to
every local synagogue.
There were many reasons for Adat
Shalom's problems back in 1973. Ir-
win Alterman, the synagogue's cur- ,,,
rent president, says, "Our building
was built first class and all at once.
We anticipated a cost somewhere
around $2.5 million, but the final
price tag came in somewhere around
$6 million. We had anticipated a
dramatic short-term increase in
membership, but this didn't happen.
And many of our potential large
givers didn't come through as ex-
Rabbi Efry Spectre also
remembers. "1973 was the Yom Kip-
pur War. Many of our congregants
took their money and gave it to Israel.
They had to pay off pledges made to
the synagogue at a later date."
There was also the added problem Alan Yost: "The biggest nut on our backs was the interest payments."


FRIDAY, SEPT. 18, 1987

of synagogue morale. Rabbi Jacob
Siegel, the synagogue's founding rab-
bi and a community pillar, was in fail-
ing health. Longtime Cantor Larry
Vieder remembers the synagogue
moving in 1972, "while my good
friend Rabbi Siegel was sick, with
leukemia. By 1974, he passed away.
Rabbi Siegel had always been in-
strumental in fundraising. When he
called for money, no one could refuse
him." But Siegel's illness prevented
him from raising money at this
crucial time.
"There was also the additional ag-
gravation," recalls Alterman, "of a
lawsuit filed against the synagogue's
general contractor that tied up hun-
dreds of thousands of dollars.
"Basically, we had our hands tied.
We had a $2 million mortgage, with
monthly mortgage payments of ap-
proximately $20,000. We didn't have
that kind of money, and in September
1973 our bank threatened
foreclosure." Alterman was part of a
team of attorneys who handled the
synagogue's legal problems.
"Irving August and I took the
bank's threat seriously. Unfortunate-
ly, some of our members didn't. We
had no other course but to file for
bankruptcy. In a sense we made
history. It's very unique for a
synagogue to be in bankruptcy.
"Filing for bankruptcy was very
dramatic and necessary. It enabled us
to pay our creditors and our bond
holders 10 percent for ten years

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