Battle underway over Harlem synagogue

June 15, 2010 11:30AM

From left, writers Darryl Pinckney, James Fenton and 1 West 123rd Street

Darryl Pinckney, a novelist who has written extensively on the black experience in America, is facing a legal battle and neighborhood protest over his Harlem townhouse that was the home to a historic black Hebrew congregation for more than four decades, the Wall Street Journal reported. Pinckney and his partner, James Fenton, a British writer, last month paid $1.85 million for the deteriorated townhouse at 1 West 123rd Street and Mount Morris Park West in Harlem, according
to property records filed last week. For decades, the building was the spiritual center of what is considered to be the oldest
African-American synagogue in America, a group of mostly black congregants who trace their origins to the ancient Israelites and have moved closer to traditional Judaism over the years. The legal battle over the property stems from the move in 2007 by one faction of the congregation, which claimed to represent the last nine members of the group, to sell the property to a developer. Another faction that said it represented members who hadn’t been consulted about the sale wanted the building back. That dispute is still working its way through the courts, with those opposed to the sale saying the deed should be returned to the synagogue. [WSJ]