Oleg Opalnyk stands in the Beth Abraham Synagogue at 35 Laurel Ave. in Auburn that he recently purchased and plans to renovate into “high-end apartments.” (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)
AUBURN — After membership shrank to 15 people, congregants at Beth Abraham Synagogue sold the building last week to a developer who plans to convert it into 10 high-end apartments.
At noon on Sunday, the community will tour the building for one last time, will ceremonially move a sacred Torah scroll to Temple Shalom Synagogue Center and will join its membership.
The synagogue had been without a rabbi for many years.
“Since I’ve been up here the last four years, they would only run high holiday services three days a year, and they bring in somebody from out of town to lead those services,” said Temple Shalom Rabbi Sruli Dresdner. “The past two high holidays, the members of Beth Abraham joined our temple.”
Temple Shalom, on Bradman Street, has about 100 congregants.
Beth Abraham Synagogue was founded in 1902 and has been at its current location at 35 Laurel Ave. since 1934, according to a 90th anniversary history of the synagogue.
“It’s a beautiful brick structure,” said Dresdner. “It sits on top of the hill in New Auburn, and it was an icon not just for the Jewish community but for the Auburn community at large.”
It was built at a time when almost all of the members lived within walking distance, he said. As people have spread out, parking became more of an issue.
After the tour on Sunday, “a few people will talk about what Beth Abraham meant to them in their lifetimes, I will offer a closing prayer, we’ll then escort the sacred Torah scroll from Beth Abraham Synagogue to Temple Shalom and place the scroll into shalom’s sanctuary ark,” Dresdner said.
The new members will be officially welcomed and they’ll celebrate with a light lunch.
Developer Oleg Opalnyk from Pownal, who owns OPO Custom Design & Restoration LLC, said he’s refinished several buildings for others, but this will be the first project he’s doing for himself.
He anticipates it will take 12 to 18 months.
“I liked the history of what it is, structurally, architecturally how it looks,” he said. “I’m going to reuse some of the stained glass, all of the chandeliers that are there. I just want to keep that style. I like old, I like historic.”
One of many ornate stained glass windows at Beth Abraham Synagogue in Auburn. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)
A small section of one of the ornate stained glass windows in the Beth Abraham Synagogue. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)
The first thing Oleg Opalnyk did after buying Beth Abramahm Synagogue at 35 Laurel Ave. in Auburn was cut all the overgrown shrubbery that hid the facade. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)
An ornate chandelier hangs in the foyer at Beth Abraham Synagogue in Auburn. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)
Cobwebs cover the star at the top of a flag of Israel at the back of Beth Abraham Synagogue in Auburn. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)
An ornate stained glass window at Beth Abraham Synagogue in Auburn. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)
An inscription on the chandelier above the bimah, the platform where the Torah is read. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)
Many of the pews still have the names of locals who were members of Beth Abraham synagogue when it was active. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)
Oleg plans to display many of the books left behind in a glass case in one of the common areas. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)
Oleg is not sure what he will do with the mikveh in one of the back rooms of the synagogue. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)
A plaque in the entryway of the synagogue. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)