Thursday, May 2, 2013

USA: New York Synagogues Participate in Landmarks Conservancy’s Sacred Sites Open House May 18th -19th

Syracuse, NY. Temple Concord. Arnold Brunner and Alfred Taylor, architect (1910-11). Photo: Samuel D. Gruber (2005)

USA:  New York Synagogues Participate in Landmarks Conservancy’s Sacred Sites Open House May 18th -19th
by Samuel D. Gruber
(ISJM) As part of National Historic Preservation Month, five New York State synagogues will join approximately 75 other houses of worship participating in the New York Landmarks Conservancy’s Sacred Sites Open House. Participating sites will open their doors to neighbors and introduce visitors to remarkable art and architecture, giving congregations the opportunity to discuss their history, cultural events and social service programs that benefit the wider community. 

Upstate, Temple Concord in Syracuse and Temple Concord in Binghamton will be open to the public on Sunday, May 19, 2013.  In NYC, two historic “tenement shuls” – the Stanton Street Synagogue and the Kehila Kedosha Janina on the Lower East Side will be open, as will the Old Broadway Synagogue in Upper Manhattan. 

Syracuse’s Temple Concord, of which I have written in the past, located in its second building dedicated in 1911 and designed by Arnold Brunner and Alfred Taylor, was listed on the National Register of Historic places in 2009.  The historic classical style building will also be open Sunday afternoon to host the annual historic Preservation awards ceremony of the Preservation Association of Central New York.

 You can read much more about this building and its cultrual and architectural context in my article in Jewish History (2011)  available here.

Binghamton, NY. Temple Concord (1964). Stained glass by Jean-Jacques Duval.  Photo courtesy Julian Preisler.

By contrast, Temple Concord in Binghamton, is a mix of old and new.  The synagogue consists of the National Register listed Jonas M. Kilmer House, an impressive mansion built in 1898, to which a modern sanctuary, built in 1964 and decorated with splendid stained glass windows by Jean-Jacques Duval, is attached. 

In New York City, two only three surviving "tenement" synagogues will also be open.  They also happen to be tow of my very favorite small congregations.   Kehila Kedosha Janina (KKJ), on Broome Street, is home synagogue of America's Greek Romaniote community will keep its usual Sunday opening hours.  The small synagogue has been meticulously restored, though you cannot tell since every original aspect was left intact.  It also houses a small but very informative museum about the history and fate of Greek Jewry. 
New York, NY. Kehila Kedosha Janina. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2005

The Stanton Street Shul remains a small but active congregation that is now embarking on a much needed restoration program for the building.  Their approach is entirely different from the Meseritz Congregation on East 6th Street - which will soon sacrifice its historic interior in order in order to develop the site for income (read more and see pictures here).  This decision, just recently announced, is a great lose to New York Jewish history, and makes the task of saving the Stanton Street Shul all the more important.  

New York, NY. Stanton Street Shul, in need of restoration. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2012 
Left: New York, NY. Stanton Street Shul. View to bimah and aron-ha-kodesh. Photo:Samuel D. Gruber 2012

According to the Stanton Street Shul  website, "[The Shul] is a historic, intimate, and vibrant Orthodox congregation serving the diverse Jewish population in Lower Manhattan. We attract and welcome Jews of all religious, educational, and cultural backgrounds from the Lower East Side, Alphabet City, East and West Villages, Stuyvesant Town, and Tribeca."  Some sense of the congregation's history and dynamic can be gleaned from the congregational memoir (more of a personal ethnographic meditation) by anthropologist and congregant Jonathan Boyarin, Mornings at the Stanton Street Shul: A Summer on the Lower East Side I recently visited Stanton Street and will soon post a longer report on the synagogue, its decorations and its urgent preservation needs.

The Old Broadway Shul in Manhattanville carries some of the flavor of the lower East Side uptown.  Founded as the  Orthodox Shul Chevra Talmud Torah Anshei Marovi, Inc in 1911.  in 1923,the congregation built its sanctuary at 15 Old Broadway - incorporating an old house on the site.  The synagogue has remained open for prayer since then.  You can read more about the history of the congregation and building here.

The New York Landmarks Conservancy's Sacred Sites

Since 1986 The New York Landmarks Conservancy's Sacred Sites program has supported more than 675 religious institutions throughout the state which have received over $7.3 million in matching grants, and mobilized more than $540 million in restoration and repair projects.  Sacred Sites is the country's oldest and largest statewide grant program to help landmark religious properties providing financial and technical assistance to help save historic religious properties. 

For additional information on the Sacred Sites Open House Weekend, contact Ann Friedman, Director, Sacred Sites at the New York Landmarks Conservancy at 212/995-5260 or visit 

Participating Synagogues:

910 Madison St. Syracuse, NY 13210  
Open Sunday May 19, 2013  9:00AM-12:00PM

9 Riverside Drive, Binghamton, NY 13905 
Open Sunday May 19, 2013


Stanton Street Shul
Jewish Open Orthodox (all welcome)
180 Stanton Street NY, NY  10009
Saturday May 18, 2013
9:30 am-1:00 pm; 7-8 pm

280 Broome Street, New York, NY 10002
Open  Sunday May 19, 2013 11-4

15 Old Broadway, New York, NY 10027
Open: Sunday May 19, 2013  10:30am to 12:30pm

According to the Landmarks Conservancy the weekend has three objectives:

• To encourage sacred sites to open their doors to the general public. Inviting visitors is a great way to build broad community support for the ongoing preservation of historic institutions.

• To inspire residents to be tourists in their own town, introducing non-members to the history, art and architecture embodied in sacred places. New Yorkers tour religious sites around the world but may overlook those in their own back yard. Developing cultural tourism is key to the future of sacred sites.

• To publicize the many programs and services religious institutions offer their neighbors. The important work these sites provide benefits the entire community – not just the congregation’s members- and help ensure the congregation’s help landmark religious properties.

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