H-SAN LUIS OBISPO

Apr 20, 2011 7:14 PM by Danielle Lerner

San Luis Obispo temple trying to raise $2.3 million to avoid foreclosure

The area's largest Jewish congregation is hoping the community can help keep its building off the auction block.

Congregation Beth David in San Luis Obispo has defaulted on its $3.3 million mortgage loan through Mission Community Bank.

The bank cannot confirm or deny the exact figures, but the temple says the bank discounted the payoff amount by $1 million. It is now trying to raise the remaining $2.3 million by May 5.

About 200 families belong to the temple and while pledges are pouring in, time is running out.

It is business as usual at Congregation Beth David despite its mounting financial crisis. It's $18,000 per month mortgage has not been paid in almost a year.

"Taking out a large loan like that, with the hope to retire the debt in the manner with which we did was risky, but also at the time that we did it, we weren't alone in doing these things. Real estate and land prices were soaring" said Gregg Loberstein, co-president of the temple's board of trustees.

The temple was planning on selling three parcels of nearby land and nearly doubling its membership to pay off the loan. That plan fell apart with the economy.

"Approximately 45 percent of our membership base are on some type of reduced or adjusted membership dues right now because of the financial hardships," said Loberstein.

However temple leaders say that loan has helped them help the environment and the community. The building is the only LEED-certified synogogue in the nation and the extra space allows for all sorts of programs. From housing the homeless, to symphony performances and lectures.

"To be able to offer our classes and programs and virtually all of our services to anyone curious or interested in the community, Jewish or not," said Rabbi Scott Corngold.

People are pledging through the congregation's Facebook and web site, and with about $1 million to go, members are staying hopeful.

"We believe that we can make this happen, of course with the help from our wonderful community," said Loberstein.

The temple has also set up a non-registered offering for temple families and their friends. That group would basically put forward its money to replace the bank and the congregation would pay them monthly interest payments to get through the next 15 or 20 years.

If they cannot raise the money in time, temple leaders say they will still worship and celebrate together, they will just have to find somewhere else to do it.

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