Conservative Judaism

United Synagogue Sells its Headquarters Building

I just received an announcement from the Conservative Movement’s lay organization, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ), that they have sold their international headquarters building — Rapaport House.

USCJ has entered into a contract for the sale of 155 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan and are working to establish a closing date for the purchase of two floors of office condominium space at 820 Second Avenue in Manhattan. The new headquarters will continue to bear the Rapaport family name.

I’ve found the Rapaport House to be stuck in the 1970s in terms of its internal physical appearance. Some, including me, have criticized United Synagogue of operating as if it were an organization stuck in the 1970s (okay — to be fair, the 1980s). Hopefully, this edifice and location change will result in improved operations for the congregational arm of the Conservative Movement for generations to come for the benefit of Conservative Jews and USCJ-affiliated synagogues.

The rest of the announcement is below:

The decision to sell the property at 155 Fifth Avenue represents the culmination of years of internal discussion, a comprehensive survey of needs and security concerns, and consultation with space planners, architects and realtors. It is our belief that the new facility will provide United Synagogue with operating and management efficiencies. It had become clear that the building offers a less-than-desirable working environment to our employees, who are dispersed over seven floors. We considered renovating the building, but the cost of doing so made a move a more desirable outcome.

The board resolution requires that the balance remaining after payment of the purchase price and relocation expenses be placed into a restricted account, used only for extraordinary expenses beyond the purview of the normal operating budget in the upkeep of this or other new property. The interest from that restricted account will be available only for improvements of the premises and other budgetary items for the premises that were not part of the usual and ordinary expenses at 155 Fifth Avenue.

The resolution also provides for a limited portion of the balance in the net proceeds to be placed into a separate restricted account under the same terms and conditions as the other account, with the interest of that fund to be used for United Synagogue’s programming and/or building expenses. Until we complete the transition, it will be difficult for us to determine how the funds that are available for programming will affect our operating budget. We anticipate that it will be about two fiscal years before we can be certain of that impact.

We look forward to announcing the opening of the new Rapaport House at 820 Second Avenue within the next two years.

(c) Rabbi Jason Miller | | Twitter: @RabbiJason |