Little more than five years ago, Gedalia and Leah Potash moved to San Francisco’s Noe Valley neighborhood not knowing a soul.
And now, in time for the fifth anniversary of their arrival, the couple (and their children, now numbering four) recently moved into a new building at 3771 Cesar Chavez.
The fact that they were able to raise enough to make a down payment on a place that will eventually house a synagogue, a preschool as well as enough space for the family to live, seems nothing short of a miracle to Rabbi Gedalia Potash.
“Here at Chabad of Noe Valley, we don’t just believe in miracles, we rely on them!” he wrote in a letter to his congregants.
Since their arrival, the Potashes had been looking for something more permanent than their rental on 29th Street. They were hopeful the community would step forward and pitch in to help, but at the same time, they feared it would never happen, as Noe Valley is one of the most popular (read: expensive) areas in which to buy a house in the city.
“Once we realized how tremendously difficult it is to buy a place in Noe Valley, we gave up,” said Potash. “In the back of our minds, we thought it was impossible, but we kept on looking.”
Fast-forward five years.
A member of the congregation who is a real estate agent stumbled upon a property with 4,000 square feet of potential space on a 5,200-square-foot lot, and thought it could be ideal. But there was just one problem. In the current real estate market, it isn’t uncommon for Noe Valley properties to go for up to $200,000 over the asking price.
At first, Bernie Katzmann of Herth Realty advised the rabbi to bid at least $200,000 over the asking price.
But then, as the time to make an offer grew nearer, Katzmann changed his thinking. Only three potential buyers had requested information packets on the property, meaning there would probably be no bidding war.
Katzmann knew that Potash and the community were not flush with cash, so taking a gamble, he suggested they overbid by only $15,000, which they did.
They included a photograph of the Potashes’ four children, ages 5 years to 6 months, along with the offer and a letter explaining what the property would be used for.
“We wrote that we’re involved with the community and helping it reach its goals, and if you can consider our bid, you will know this property will be enjoyed for many years, by not only a family but the community.”
When Katzmann called the next day to tell Potash his offer was accepted, the rabbi couldn’t believe it.
“That is definitely a real estate miracle,” he said, “and the next miracle was the community’s participation.”
Potash had no money in the bank. But when the offer was accepted, community members chipped in — about 100 of them — to contribute to a down payment.
And Katzmann forfeited his usual commission.
While the Potashes have since moved in, they are working with architects to design the downstairs room that will eventually function as the synagogue on weekends and the preschool during the week. They are still running their programs at the 29th Street location, as their lease is not yet up.
Potash is incredibly grateful for how this all unfolded, not to mention the fact that they are launching their first preschool and dedicating a new Torah, all at their official opening celebration Sunday, Sept. 25.
“We’ve gotten everything from the community,” said Potash. “We feel very grateful and realize how much the community appreciates the work we’re doing that they’re investing all of this money in us.”
Potash recalled a “very Chabad principle” in explaining this miraculous unfolding of events.
“Difficult things take a long time to accomplish; impossible things take a little bit longer.”