Advertisement

Tampa’s Rodeph Sholom keeps Bayshore home while selling half of its land

The 119-year-old congregation that has a synagogue with a giant menorah wants to fight antisemitism, promote culture.
Congregation Rodeph Sholom’s property located along Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa.
Congregation Rodeph Sholom’s property located along Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published Nov. 30, 2022

TAMPA — Over the years, developers made plenty of offers to buy Rodeph Sholom’s property at 2713 Bayshore Blvd. Each was rebuffed.

“We had no interest,” said Lloyd Stern, president of the 119-year-old conservative synagogue.

That changed in June when Rodeph Sholom agreed to sell to the Related Group. What was different?

“They had a mixed-use idea that would allow us to remain at our existing location,” Stern said. It’s not so much that Rodeph Shalom did not want to sell. “We had no desire to move.”

Bayshore Boulevard is one of Tampa’s most scenic roadways and having a building topped with a giant menorah hovering over it, Stern said, shows that “Tampa is welcoming of all people and that there is a vibrant Jewish community here that we can be proud of.” He said it’s a pointed message at a time when antisemitism is prevalent.

A rendering of the Related Group’s condo proposed for Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa. Rodeph Sholom is to the right of the high-rise.
A rendering of the Related Group’s condo proposed for Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa. Rodeph Sholom is to the right of the high-rise. [ Courtesy of the Related Group ]

According to the Hillsborough County Property Appraiser’s website, Rodeph Shalom owns 2 acres along Bayshore Boulevard.

The synagogue is selling an acre that currently has a parking lot and preschool building rented to the Bryan Glazer Family Jewish Community Center. The Related Group plans to raze the building and erect a high rise with 50 to 60 condo units.

Rodeph Shalom will still own the acre with the synagogue building. Stern expects the deal to be finalized by January 2024.

He would not divulge the sales price but said most of the money would be placed in an endowment “to take care of future repairs.”

Some will be spent immediately on increased security and landscaping.

“In the short term, we want to beautify our Bayshore site,” Stern said. “We are lucky enough to be next to The Tampa Garden Club, which is a beautiful piece of property.

Related: Just as with the 'all the way' Cuban sandwich, Jewish immigrants influenced Ybor City

Stern likened the symbolism of the Rodeph Shalom building to Tampa’s immigrant social clubs.

Some, like Ybor City’s Cuban Club, Italian Club and Centro Asturiano buildings, are still owned and operated by the social clubs. Others, like the Centro Espanol’s Ybor and West Tampa buildings, are no longer owned by the clubs.

Regardless, Stern said, they all stand as monuments to those cultural histories and “our big menorah celebrates Tampa’s rich Jewish heritage.”

Congregation Rodeph Sholom’s historic marker on Bayshore Boulevard.
Congregation Rodeph Sholom’s historic marker on Bayshore Boulevard. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Read inspiring stories about ordinary lives

Read inspiring stories about ordinary lives

Subscribe to our free How They Lived newsletter

You’ll get a remembrance of Tampa Bay residents we’ve lost, including heartwarming and amusing details about their lives, every Tuesday.

You’re all signed up!

Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.

Explore all your options

Rodeph Shalom was founded in 1903 in reaction to Ybor’s growing Jewish — many of whom settled there from Germany and Romania in the late 1800s and early 1900s — population.

According to the historic marker on its Bayshore property, the congregation’s first 20 families met at the home of at the Ybor home of J. L. Mairson, identified by news archives as owner of a downtown clothing store.

Rodeph Sholom then “grew from a small building on Palm Avenue in Ybor City to a larger structure on the same grounds in 1909,” the marker says. “A permanent building was constructed in 1936 ... With continued growth of Tampa’s Jewish population, Rodeph Sholom constructed its current facility on Bayshore Boulevard in 1969.”

Rodeph Sholom on Palm Avenue in Ybor City in 1956.
Rodeph Sholom on Palm Avenue in Ybor City in 1956. [ Times (1956) ]

The current congregation of 1,200 members support the sale, Stern said. “We still have families who started Rodeph Shalom and they are happy to see we are doing something to make sure we are here for their great-great grandchildren.”

And they understand the importance of that menorah remaining on Bayshore Boulevard.

“This money will make sure we never have to sell our whole piece of property,” Stern said. “Our building shows that everyone is welcome in Tampa.”