The LuLac Edition #2485, July 31st, 2013
Editor: A few months ago I was contacted by two, professional photographers based out of Paris, France, requesting that they be given permission to photograph our 107-year-old Irem Temple Mosque located on North Franklin Street in Wilkes-Barre. They reached out to me assuming that I was still in charge of the real estate holdings of the Greater Wilkes-Barre Industrial Fund.
I explained to them that I was no longer affiliated with the chamber, but after reviewing their website and credentials, I told them that I would see what I could do to gain them access to the mosque.
The artists from Paris are by no means "fly-by-night" photographers. They have art galleries in Paris, London, and Stockholm. Using large format camera equipment, their artistic passion is focused on memorializing historically significant, deteriorating theaters of golden, by-gone eras. Please visit their website at www.marchandmeffre.com to view some of their work.
These men are flying to the United States next week to photograph several, historically significant, grand theaters on the east coast, as well as in Canada. They have specifically set aside nine days to spend in Wilkes-Barre with hopes that they will be allowed to photograph our Irem Temple. They will be in Wilkes-Barre from July 28 through Aug. 5. The fact that our Irem Temple appeared on the "radar screen" of these artists in Paris, France, should tell us something about the architectural significance of this treasure sitting in our back yard.
The citizens of Northeastern Pennsylvania should feel honored that our iconic, historic landmark has gained global attention. This is an opportunity for our community that simply cannot be ignored. The problem is that the leadership of the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Business and Industry has made it clear that they have no intention of allowing this French team to enter the Irem Temple, which they unfortunately own and control.
When several members of our group reached out to the president of the chamber, William Moore, to express their concern over his stance on this opportunity, Mr. Moore's scripted response was, "Thank you for contacting me about the Irem Temple and allowing photographers to enter the building. On the advice of our insurance carriers and legal counsel, we are unable to allow anyone to enter the building."
The Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Business and Industry, as stewards of several publicly financed projects and assets in the Wilkes-Barre area, including their ownership of the Irem Temple Mosque, I cannot help but feel that the chamber is not fulfilling their fiduciary responsibility in doing whatever they can to promote our community assets, and to fulfill their mission of enhancing the quality of life in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Why in the world would they stand in the way of any attempt to promote an initiative that could potentially assist in the restoration of this one-of-a-kind landmark?
If anyone can attach a shred of logic to any of the chamber's actions as they relate to the handling of the Irem Temple Mosque, please let me know, because I am surely at a loss. In stark contrast to what immeasurable contributions our chamber made to this community over the past three decades, I'm not quite sure what their current mission or strategy is, or even what their significance and role is in contributing value to this community.
Several months ago, we created a Facebook page titled, "Irem Temple Mosque Restoration Project," which is devoted to keeping the public aware of any and all developments concerning our 107-year-old Mosque. As of this writing, there are 372 concerned citizens who are members of this Facebook community. This website serves as a forum to discuss and exchange ideas on how to save our Irem Temple. This is no small task, but a lot of good ideas are being shared by the 372 members. Yes, there is clearly hope for the future of the Irem Temple. I invite all concerned citizens to view our Facebook page for news and updates at www.facebook.com/IremTempleMosqueRestoration.
Conclusion: The Hotel Sterling will be our newest parking lot next week. The citizens of Wilkes-Barre cannot allow our Irem Temple to be the next victim of the wrecking ball due to unnecessary complacency. The Irem Temple can be saved.
Thank you for listening.
Ross G. Macarty Wilkes-Barre