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Several years ago I was doing an observation in a private secular pre-school. The school is housed in the former Talmud Torah building still owned by the synagogue immediately next door. (The student body is predominantly non-Jewish but the school is obligated to follow kashrut and close on Jewish Holy Days.) The complex was built during the 1950’s when the neighborhood had a small, but not necessarily Orthodox, Jewish population. The Jewish population stagnated until the late nineties/early aughts when the area started growing into the thriving Orthodox neighborhood it is today. Since the children attend nearby yeshivot, there is no need for a Talmud Torah. While in a classroom, I noticed a rather large plaque peaking out of the side of a bookcase. It was a dedication to parents who died during the 1950’s. There were similar plaques hidden behind classroom furniture throughout the building.

This got me thinking. Is there a halakhic source for the length of time a dedication (yahrzeit plaque, dedication of a room/building, Torah scroll, etc. must be displayed/ maintained? I am aware that sometimes when a congregation disbands, they arrange for yahrzeit plaques to be transferred elsewhere. But what about situations such as I cited above? Doesn’t the contributor have some right to expect their dedication remains accessible as long as the building is owned by the congregation? Say someone donated big bucks to have a building dedicated to a loved one and a year or two from then an even wealthier person donates money to rename the building?

  • I'm unaware of a specified time these plaques need to be there. However, if you roam around some churches in East New York and Far Rockaway, NY, you will still see yahrtzeit plaques in the same place despite the fact that the entire building is a church. I was surprised when I saw this. Mr. Morris Finkelstein would probably not be thrilled if he knew. (Believe me, he probably knows!) – DanF Aug 31 '15 at 22:31
  • If the donor was not guaranteed a plaque at the start, then there is obviously no requisite amount of time to leave it up. – mevaqesh Aug 31 '15 at 23:01
  • You want a source for keeping the plaques long term, or would you settle for a modern day ruling from a world famous Rabbi? – user6591 Aug 31 '15 at 23:51
  • What did the terms of the contract say when the placard was purchased? – Double AA Sep 1 '15 at 1:04
  • Thank you all for responding. I too am surprised that the churches maintain the yahrzeit plaques. On the other hand, based on numerous "former/lost" synagogues books I own, so many of those synagogues are readily identified by Hebrew writing, Star of David, etc. Since this was just an observation, I have no idea what the doners understood nor do I know what they were told. I do know that this was a substantial plaque. Do synagogues, yeshivot, normally specify how long they will maintain plaques or names on the building? – JJLL Sep 1 '15 at 22:32

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