Portland church to be sold to Jewish Community Alliance

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PORTLAND — St. Patrick Roman Catholic Church at 1342 Congress St. will be sold to the Jewish Community Alliance of Southern Maine.

“The JCA has completed a purchase and sale agreement for the land on which we will build our new home,” alliance President Steven Brinn and Executive Director Emily Chaleff announced Dec. 22 in an email to members.

On Dec. 23, Chaleff said the agreement means the Jewish Community Center will be able to move from its building at 57 Ashmont St., which lacks adequate space for the JCA’s programs and services.

“Over time, it just wasn’t big enough,” Chaleff said of the JCC home for the last 32 years.

The alliance and community center are used by Jews and non-Jews from the mid-coast through southern York County. Programs include Jewish Family Services, Center Day Camp, and other social service, educational, recreational and cultural activities.

The agreement also marks the end of concurrent efforts to find a new home for the JCC and to sell the Congress Street property owned by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland.

The sale price was not disclosed, but an online listing by Malone Commercial Brokers asked $1.6 million for the 2.2-acre site.

The agreement to sell the church comes after a 2013 agreement with Charter Realty & Development Corp. fell through. Charter, owners of the adjacent Westgate Shopping Center, intended to tear down the church and redevelop the property.

Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland spokesman Dave Guthro did not return telephone calls and emails about the sale to the JCA.

The alliance was formed by merging the JCC and former Jewish Federation in 1998, Chaleff said. A task force was formed in 2009 to find a new building, and Chaleff said it was the generosity of Sidney Levine that moved the process forward.

Levine, a Portland native and tailor who died Jan. 15, 2011, at age 88, left his assets to the alliance, providing seed money for a capital campaign.

“It was really prescient of Mr. Levine to make this gift,” Chaleff said. “I don’t think we’d be where we are today without his foresight.”

“It is a really wonderful neighborhood opportunity,” Chaleff continued, adding the task force sought an easily accessible site, close to Interstate 295 and with enough room to build a playground for children in the alliance’s day camps and pre- and after-school programs.

The alliance expects to double its indoor space to between 15,000 and 18,000 square feet. The immediate plans are to meet with neighbors to discuss potential plans and start the municipal review process for permits, Chaleff said.

“We are in a quiet phase of fundraising,” she said.

City tax records indicate St. Patrick’s was built in 1964. Church services there ended in 2013.

The sale would be another in a recent series of divestitures by the diocese.

The former St. Patrick School at 1251 Congress St. was closed in 2007 and converted to condominiums. In December 2013, the diocese completed the $730,000 sale of St. John the Evangelist Church and associated properties around 611 Main St. in South Portland.

The Jewish Community Center was located in a five-story Cumberland Avenue building until the move to Ashmont Street in 1982.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Sidebar Elements


St. Patrick’s Church at 1342 Congress St. in Portland could become the new Jewish Community Center through an agreement for the Jewish Community Alliance of Southern Maine to buy the property from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland.

The existing Jewish Community Center at 57 Ashmont St. in Portland has been in use for 32 years and is not large enough for all the services and programs offered by the Jewish Community Alliance of Southern Maine, Executive Director Emily Chaleff said Dec. 22.

JCA prepares for Cuban journey

PORTLAND — As the United States moves toward normalized relations with Cuba, the Jewish Community Alliance of Southern Maine is sponsoring a week-long trip to Havana and other Cuban cities March 8-15, 2015.

This trip, arranged through the Jewish Cuba Connection and in the planning stages for several months, will explore Cuba’s Jewish community of about 1,500 people with visits to the only Orthodox synagogue in the country, Jewish cemeteries, and the first Holocaust memorials in the Western Hemisphere.

The trip will also feature visits with Jewish educators and community leaders, to the home of Ernest Hemingway and to museums of pre- and post-revolution history.

The trip registration deadline is Jan. 7, 2015. For more information contact Fae Silverman at fsilverman@mainejewish.org or 772-1959, or visit mainejewish.org.

— David Harry

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.