By David Pierce
Pocono Record Writer
The Orthodox Jewish owners of the former Daniels Top of the Poconos resort have requested a full property tax exemption for a synagogue and rabbinical school complex.
Congregation OHR Menachem, of Brooklyn, bought Daniels last August for $1.15 million. The new worship and religious education facility meets requirements for a full exemption, attorney Frank Hoegen told the Monroe County Board of Assessment Revision on Wednesday morning.
Places of worship and other religious facilities throughout Monroe County — including those with educational components — routinely receive partial exemptions from school, municipal and county property taxes. In this case, operators are seeking an exemption for the entire 44-acre parcel near Canadensis in Barrett Township, on grounds all facilities are being used for religious and educational purposes.
The main inn has been transformed into a synagogue. Cabins are used for housing students who are enrolled in an advanced program leading to ordination as rabbis. The swimming pool is used for Orthodox ceremonies. Kosher meals are prepared onsite.
All former Daniels buildings are being used by Congregation OHR Menachem and none of them will be removed.
“The place more or less fitted the use,” Jacob Herzog, a project consultant, said.
Herzog drew parallels to the ordination program and a two-to-three year post-graduate degree program. Learning is integrated with daily prayer and strict, constant religious rituals, he said. Though families will make visits, only students and staff will ever stay overnight, he added.
The synagogue will be open to worship by anyone of the Jewish faith, even those who aren’t of the Orthodox sect, he said.
There are about 25 students in the local program now, with plans for eventually enrolling 200 at a time. Students are drawn primarily from the Northeast U.S., with others from overseas.
The assessment board, comprised of the three Monroe County commissioners, approved a resolution directing Monroe County Tax Claim Bureau Director Cindy Treible to inspect the property by the end of March. The board’s attorney, Jeff Durney, will review how property taxes are handled at similar religious education sites. They will make recommendations on the tax-exemption request.