- General Questions
Can a shul knowlingly be destroyed? What are the halachic implications when a Jewish organization sells a building which houses an active established shul? What must the organization do both financially and halachically to guarantee the reestablishment of that active shul in a new location? I have asked this question before, and more than ever, need to know your opinion. Kol Tov
As opposed to shules in Eretz Yisrael which enjoy permanent sanctity - even as a destroyed site (for example, the excavated synagogue on Massada) - the shules of the diaspora are always constructed "on condition" that a thriving Jewish community exists in the area to maintain the structure as a bonafide shul. Hence, the sanctity status of the diaspora shuls is only temporary, and fully dependent on its use by the local Jewish community. This also functions as an indication of the lack of permanence that Jews have endured throughout the exile. Specifically, a shul structure can be torn down for the purpose of constructing another larger facility on its very site. Furthermore, the sale of a defunct shul (e.g. no longer a "Jewish neighborhood" situation) is possible, provided that a clause in the sales contract stipulates that the building cannot be used for "idolatry" purposes or a whore house, or something that may blatantly discredit Judasim. Generally, the ideal "customer" for a shul building would be a church organization. This may cause a problem in light of Maimonides' ruling that Christianity is to be classified as "idolatry". If no other recourse is available, a "third party" gentile customer can be introduced to directly purchase the shul building, while subsequently re-selling it to whatever religious denomination of his choice. Proceeds of the sale can be evenly divided amongst the surviving synagogue membership. However, the common practice today is donate the proceeds to local or Eretz Yisrael Torah causes.