A Buddhist temple embedded in a synagogue tells the story of South Philly immigration

August 4, 2018

By Staff

The only thing you can say with certainty about Philadelphia neighborhoods is that there will be churn. Sometimes it comes from depopulation and disinvestment, other times from growth and gentrification. The markers of these shifts are best seen in religious buildings as they are passed from one group to another.

The intersection of Sixth and Ritner in South Philadelphia offers a vivid snapshot of the ever-changing Mifflin Square neighborhood. The land south of Moyamensing Avenue was only lightly settled at the turn of the 20th century but quickly started filling up with Germans and Italians. Jews pushed south from Queen Village after World War I. Beginning in the mid-’70s, with the end of the Vietnam War, Southeast Asians — Vietnamese, Cambodian, Laotian — began arriving. Joined by African Americans and Latinos, they have thoroughly regenerated the neighborhood. Inga Saffron Preah Buddha Rangsey Temple acquired St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church in 2004, a hundred years after it was built.

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