A local faith leader is planning to open a unique spiritual center in Washington, D.C., but a stop work order has delayed its completion.
Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld wants to open the first yeshiva in the District, but unlike traditional Jewish learning centers used by orthodox men, he plans to open the center to women and members of the gay community.
“I know this will be a blessing for our city; this will be a blessing for our whole city,” said Herzfeld, who’s building the center in the residential neighborhood of Shepherd Park.
Herzfeld has been part of the faith community in D.C. for nearly two decades as head of the District’s largest orthodox synagogue, but he recently left that position to embark on his new journey building the yeshiva.
The new center, though, has run into some roadblocks.
Construction on the learning center has come to a halt as the District issued a stop work order last month because the addition on the rear of the house exceeded the scope of the original submitted plans.
There has also been some pushback from a small number of neighbors. One neighbor, who chose to be anonymous, raised concerns over the size of the project and how the center may change the quality of life in the community due to potentially increased traffic.
“This neighbor doesn’t want us there, but this is a city, and in a city, you don’t always get to choose your neighbors," said Herzfeld.
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Herzfeld submitted new plans, which the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs is now reviewing. He expects the new plans will be approved and construction will resume.
“This is a beautiful city, and yeah, sure, there's some voices that don’t like it, but every time you do a new project, not everybody loves it. That’s life,” said Herzfeld.
Once complete, as many as 15 students could live at the new yeshiva in addition to those who come to study and pray.