Congregation Raim Ahuvim

The Austro-Hungarian Chevra in Philadelphia
Founded 1892




The renovation of the ground floor is now completed. In addition, we undertook comprehensive structural improvements of the whole building, especially involving the outside walls.  We are working on re-establishing regular davening times. 



Why We Decided to Renovate Raim Ahuvim


            The fire of June 22, 2011 sent us soul searching.  We were suddenly confronted with the question of whether there was a future for Raim Ahuvim in the Overbrook Farms neighborhood.  Was it worth embarking on a lengthy project of renovating the shul?


            Before we even had a chance to take our bearings between absorbing the shock and evaluating the damage, there were calls from participants in the morning minyan to relocate the shul to the Main Line.   “Not so fast!” we thought   A move of the shul to the Main Line would have meant that several long term members of the shul in our neighborhood would have been left stranded without a minyan.


            Before embarking upon an extensive renovation project we needed to evaluate the building for its long-term endurance potential.  One of our detractors told us that “the building is ‘ferkrumt’” and his eitzeh was to knock it down.  Given that this advice came from a contractor, we took it to heart and had a stone mason look the building over.  The mason recommended to do pointing and some brick work on its east side.  Other than that, he reassured us that the building was built like a fortress that could easily withstand the elements for a couple more centuries – keyn eyn hara – provided that we kept the roof in good shape.  Fortunately, our roof was replaced about seven years ago.  Now we just had to replace the section of the roof that was damaged by the fire.


            With regard to the structural integrity of the building, we only had to remind ourselves that George and Sidney Gornish knew what they were doing when they selected this building to relocate Raim Ahuvim from West Philadelphia in 1958.  They surely had the long term perspective in mind!  When they adapted the building, the former residence of a judge, to accommodate the needs of a shul, they did all the work with their own hands.  George was in charge of masonry and carpentry, whereas Sidney was the plumber and electrician.  Both cooperated in fixing the roof.  The shul was thriving with more than 70 members until the late seventies. 


            As more and more Jewish residents of the neighborhood decided to leave the neighborhood for the Main Line, Philadelphia’s North East and out of town locations, the membership started to dwindle.   Naturally, as of the late nineties it was hard to imagine how the shul could be kept up once George and Sidney were no longer able to do the work.   


            Today, what makes the renovation more auspicious is that the character of our neighborhood is changing.  Due to the historic character of its houses and the natural beauty of their surroundings, Overbrook Farms has become a desirable neighborhood for home ownership.  During the past couple of years when home prices tumbled nationwide, real estate values in this neighborhood declined to a far lesser extent even though they had grown at a steady pace and by substantial increases throughout several decades.  There have been hardly any foreclosures and homes that are put up for sale are usually sold very quickly.  Most residents are long-term home owners who are zealously keeping up their properties.   The security situation has improved greatly over the past decade, not in the least due to the efforts of St. Joseph’s University to keep the streets safe by sending car and bicycle patrols around to enable their students to walk the neighborhood even late at night.


            Our neighborhood offers excellent public transportation -- as good as it can get in Philadelphia.  From Raim Ahuvim you can reach the regional rail SEPTA station by walking only three blocks.  Most of the homes in our neighborhood are located even in closer vicinity to the newly renovated SEPTA station.  It takes around 15 minutes by train to reach various stops in Center City and less to reach the AMTRAK station at Thirtieth Street. 


            The upshot is that we would consider it extremely foolish to give up a classy, spacious building with enormous potential that is zoned as a shul.  We just have to remind ourselves that the mortgage on it is long paid off!  In addition, Raim Ahuvim  houses the Men’s Mikvah which accommodates the needs of men not only in our

neighborhood, but in the whole Main Line.  Many talmidim of the Philadelphia Yeshiva which is situated just two blocks away from Raim Ahuvim go to the mikvah here on a regular basis.  Would it not be a tremendous loss for the Jewish Community to let this building go? 


            We also have to consider that the Philadelphia Yeshiva – as spacious its Bait Medrash is – can only accommodate so many balabatim.  After all, its first obligation is to its Talmidim and there are only few spaces available for frum men from our area.  We clearly need a neighborhood shul!  


            So, why do we think our neighborhood is hospitable and attractive to an influx of new Jewish residents?   Compared to various Jewish neighborhoods on the Main Line real estate is a lot more affordable. You simply get a lot more house for your buck and you buy with it high quality stone construction with beautiful woodwork compared to modern family homes.  These facts can prove to become a lure, especially for large Jewish families. 



              For out-of-towners who are considering moving to Philadelphia here is some information on schools:


 There are two orthodox elementary schools within reach of our neighborhood:


Torah Academy located in Ardmore on the Main Line (a 7 minute drive);


Politz Hebrew Academy in North East Philadelphia 35 min. by school bus; the bus is provided by the Philadelphia School District and utilized by a large group of kids who come from families living around the Philadelphia Yeshiva.


There is an orthodox girls’ high school called Kosloff Torah Academy Girls’ High School, which is 5 minutes away from the Shul.


Kohelet is a modern-orthodox high school for boys and girls (not co-ed) in Bala Cynwyd (5 min. drive).


In any case, if you are interested in taking a look contact us at:  or (215) 473-4502





The Fire of June 22, 2011. Published in Yated


A Fire at “Raim Ahuvim”, the Revered Wynnefield Shul, does not Demoralize its Members


When the earliest minyan in town assembled at Congregation “Raim Ahuvim” last Wednesday at 6:25 a.m., its members were confronted with the gruesome sight of innumerable broken windows on the two upper floors of their shul. Smoke filled the air. The congregants were informed that a fire broke out shortly after midnight that had gutted the second and third floors of the building, but left the main floor intact. Given that the actual makom tefilah on the main floor was still available, there was immediate consensus that the morning minyan should proceed.


In order to avoid exposing the members of the minyan to hazardous smells and mold spores in the aftermath of the fire, and to facilitate the clean-up, the morning minyan was invited by “Aish Hatorah” to temporarily hold its services on its premises. On Shabbos, Marvin and Leah Gornish graciously hosted the minyan in their home next to the shul.


The good news is that the clean-up is proceeding well. Electricity in the shul and in the Men’s Mikvah is already restored and a potentially hazardous carpet was removed from the makom tefilah. Members are still hopeful that the revered “Austro-Hungarian Congregation” can be revived by fixing the windows and the other fire-related damage and are asking for donations to be sent to:


Congregation Raim Ahuvim,

5854 Drexel Road,

Philadelphia, PA 19131.




Address: 5854 Drexel Road  |  Phone: (215) 473-4502

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