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World Williams Zoners Say Sikhs Can Turn Cheese Factory Into Place Of Worship

May 28, 2009
By Christopher Baxter |OF THE MORNING CALL June 4, 2009 A small group of practicing Sikhs, followers of the world's fifth largest religion, plan to bring the teachings of devotion, equality and social justice to Williams Township by converting a former cheese factory near Interstate 78 into a temple.

The local Zoning Hearing Board gave Sikh Sadh Sangat Inc. approval Wednesday to change the defunct Crivellaro Cheese & Bakery building at 45 Hilton St. into a Sikh place of worship known as a gurdwara.

''This institution will be a credit to the community and the diversity of the community,'' Daniel Cohen, lawyer for Sangat Inc., told the zoners. ''These are high-quality people who only want to be able to practice their faith in peace and harmony.''

Founded in the 15th century in Punjab, a region straddling present-day India and Pakistan, Sikhism formed around the teachings of 10 gurus, or enlightened leaders, who preach tenets such as devotion to one God, truthfulness, equality and social justice. Sikhs, meaning disciples, also denounce superstitions or blind rituals such as fasting.

The majority of the world's 23 million Sikhs live in the founding region. In the United States, large followings exist in Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York City, said Devinder Chana, building manager for Sangat Inc.

The group of about 65 to 70 people currently worships in Tatamy's Olde Mill Yoga & Wellness Center, and had planned to build a gurdwara in Plainfield Township. But when the cheese factory became available after the owner died and the bank put the building up for auction, Sangat Inc. felt it was a more convenient location.

''There is good access to the highway for people traveling between the Lehigh Valley and New Jersey,'' said Chana, a 27-year resident of the region. ''It's very much the private and quiet location we're looking for.''

The Sikhs worship primarily on Sunday, and Sangat Inc. plans to build the required 34 parking spaces to accommodate any vehicles. Zoners barred the group from allowing anyone to park on Hilton Street because of heavy truck traffic.

Chana said the existing building will remain relatively unchanged other than some interior redecorating. He hopes worship, held in the native Punjabi language, can begin by the beginning of July, as long as problems with the sewer line connection at the site are resolved.

Another group of Sikhs in the Lehigh Valley, numbering more than 200 families, worshipped in the basement of an A to Z Auto Repair in Easton until the 2007 opening of a gurdwara in Lower Nazareth Township.

Preet Bajwa, a spokesman for that congregation, said at the time that more and more Sikhs have moved to the region from New York City since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, partly because their practice of wearing turbans made life in the city difficult.


Jun 3, 2007
''These are high-quality people who only want to be able to practice their faith in peace and harmony.

i laugh at this statement.

i used to live in this community in the late 90's till 2003. Things were calm back than. But than all different types of desi's started to move in from nj, and nyc. Hell broke lose after that. Fighting started who should control the podium and the cash flow and under whose name should the gurdwara be in, Who's family member's shall we invite from punjab to be granthis whether they qualify or not is a different story. The sangat was split in half. The opposing sangat left and started to look for a new guru ghar. After collecting donations for couple of years they rented a yoga studio. But its a good thing they have found a property because i was wondering what happened to all the donations they had collected. Am pretty sure that this scenario will repeat itself in a few years again.
lets just hope nobody stabs each other on the stage because than again we will be a laughing stock in the community just like in nj where the sewadarrs starting fighting and the gurdwara was shut down for investigation and was the cover story for local papers.



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