2017-07-05 / Voice at the Shore

Goodbye to the beloved Emeth Shalom building

By ELLEN WEISMAN STRENGER Voice shore editor

The corner of Ventnor and Lancaster Avenues in Margate somehow just looks wrong these days. The temple that graced that corner, which was home to a vibrant Reform congregation for over 60 years, is in the midst of being torn down. Soon it will be completely gone, replaced by three beautiful new million dollar homes, said Marc Needleman, the last president of Temple Emeth Shalom, which merged with Beth Judah in Ventnor a year ago to form Shirat Hayam.

The building, which went up for sale by owner shortly after the High Holidays last year, was sold for $1 million at the beginning of May, said Needleman, who is now co-president of Shirat Hayam.

“We got an offer right away, in early November, but it was contingent upon us getting the property approved for three residential lots,” he said.

It was approved in April, and shortly thereafter the sale was finalized.

Seeing the building come down has been hard for congregants.

“I know members who said they drove by but couldn’t look— they had to put their hands over their eyes,” said Needleman.

Emeth Shalom founding members Bebe and Erving Markman, age 91, are among those taking it hard. “When you passed by before and saw the building, that was one thing, but when I passed it when it was being torn down—Oh! I can’t even go past it now,” said Bebe.

The building itself holds many memories for the Markmans, who have been Emeth Shalom members since it first began meeting in a home on Frontenac Avenue in the early 1950s. They were among those who made the decision to build the temple.

“We helped to lay the floors in the temple,” said Bebe, who also raised money to redo the kitchen when she was Sisterhood president. “I bought a big commercial refrigerator using green stamps. People saved green stamps for the temple!”

Many of her treasured family memories are also bound up with the building. “All of my children’s life events occurred at the temple,” including baby namings, bar and bat mitzvahs, confirmations, and weddings. The same held true for Bebe’s youngest son. “His children’s life events were all held there.”

According to Needleman, the land at the corner of Ventnor and Lancaster Avenues was an empty lot without much around it when Emeth Shalom purchased it in the 1950s. “The blocks around it were just starting to be developed, with homes being put up.”

The temple went up in stages, starting with just the sanctuary. Over time, classrooms, multipurpose rooms and a second floor were added.

When the lot was first purchased, he added, the congregation needed special approval from neighbors to build a synagogue on the lot, which was deed-restricted for residential use. Despite the fact that all of Ventnor Avenue north of the lot and even across the street is now commercial property, the lot is still restricted to residential use. “We would have liked it to go commercial, but couldn’t because of the restriction,” said Needleman.

Although the congregation officially moved into the Beth Judah building when the merger was finalized last July, the process of moving out continued well after that, he noted. 

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