NORWICH – The Jewish Center of Norwich – which made headlines in 2008 when it was vandalized by local youths – is the subject of an event tonight involving Syracuse University’s College of Arts and Sciences and its Judaic studies program.
SU friends and alumni, as well as area residents,will gather and celebrate the center’s restoration efforts from 5-7 tonight at the Chenango County Council of the Arts, 27 W. Main St. Hosted by Robert Tenney ’82 and Daryl R. Forsythe ’65, the program includes tours of the 98-year-old building and remarks by Thomas V. Wolfe, senior vice president and dean of student affairs at SU; Harvey Teres, associate professor of English and director of the Judaic studies program at SU; and James Fertig ’76, owner of the Fertig Law Office.
The event is free and open to the public. For more information and to RSVP, call the college at 443-2212.
Since last fall, an SU-supported restoration campaign has raised nearly half of the amount needed for repairs. Gifts include a $25,000 matching grant from SU Chancellor Nancy Cantor. A fundraising campaign has yielded donations from individuals and foundations as far away as Maryland, Florida and Texas.
Tenney, who serves on the college’s Board of Visitors and runs Mid-York Press in Sherburne, says the event is designed to celebrate SU’s commitment to Scholarship in Action.
“Chancellor Cantor insists that learning and discovery have no physical boundaries,” he says. “That’s the case here because the main campus is nearly 60 miles away. SU takes its role as an anchor institution in the community very seriously, and is committed to serving the public good, regardless of distance.”
Teres agrees. For the past year, he has been instrumental in raising awareness and support of the restoration project, going so far as to devote part of his Judaic studies program’s website to the cause.
“For decades, the Jewish Center of Norwich has been part of the religious and cultural fabric of Central New York,” says Teres, an expert in the public arts and humanities. “By restoring the center to its original state, we affirm the discovery and exploration of our diverse identities and heritages. The Jewish Center of Norwich is a place for all people.”
In 2008, three teenage boys broke into the Jewish center, and caused an estimated $200,000 in damages. All of the building’s leaded and stained glass was damaged, as were furniture, fixtures, woodwork, tapestries and religious artifacts. The intruders also scrawled anti-Semitic remarks on the center’s blackboard.
Following the incident, several local churches briefly provided temporary space for Jewish education and worship.
“What we have here is a Wall of Shame and a Wall of Fame,” says Fertig. “The Wall of Shame refers to what happened to the Jewish Center of Norwich. The Wall of Fame refers to the many people and organizations, including SU, that have bonded together to do the right thing.”
Fertig states that the purpose of the restoration campaign is to not only restore the damage, but also sustain the building, which is iconic in Norwich. “It is a responsibility we don’t take lightly,” he says, adding that the center was also vandalized in 2003.
Located on South Broad Street, the Jewish Center of Norwich is the only facility of its kind in rural Central New York. The center was originally built in 1914 to house the Eatons, one of the area’s most prominent families. In the mid-1950s, the building was acquired by local congregants, including many German-Jewish refugees, who transformed it into a synagogue and community center. The center was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2009.
This story and other news about Syracuse University can be found on the Syracuse University News website (sunews.syr.edu).
– Rob Enslin