EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

December 15, 2012

Jewish temple reborn as church

FALL RIVER, Mass. (AP) — As Congregation Adas Israel marked the end of its residency at the historic synagogue on Robeson Street, another religious group moved in and gave the building a new life.

Early this month, Pastor Donat Boucher welcomed The Word of Life Community Church into its new and unique home in the city’s North End.

“It was an exciting day,” Boucher said, as the last of about 100 adults and children of his evangelical congregation smiled and waved good-byes after a morning of Scripture reading, Sunday school classes and refreshments.

Just a couple of days before, on Nov. 29, Congregation Adas Israel sold its property, including a chapel and building, to Word of Life. Adas Israel is the last of what had been five or six orthodox synagogues for ultra-observant Jews in Fall River.

The sale was for $400,000, said Renee Lipson, an Adas Israel member and the agent for Brenner Real Estate Co. listing the property at Robeson and Nichols streets.

For most of the past year, The Word of Life church held its services a few times a week and paid monthly rent at the Marine Museum on Water Street. They’ve also used the Visitor Center at Heritage State Park and a building on Ferry Street. Boucher, raised Catholic in Fall River, said his following has grown steadily since he started the church as a born-again Christian in his dining room in 2007.

“It was quite a journey,” Boucher said, adding, “I knew this is where God wanted us.”

While Boucher exchanged warm smiles and a hug good-bye with Jeffrey Weissman, the president of Congregation Adas Israel, the latter had a melancholy thought to share: Dec. 1 marked the first Saturday since 1959 that Weissman’s dwindling number of Jewish orthodox congregants did not hold worship service in their building.

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