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November 28, 2015 / 16 Kislev, 5776
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Lower East Side’

Lower East Side Liberal-Orthodox Synagogue Burglarized

Thursday, October 15th, 2015

(JNi.media) Rebecca Honig-Friedman, President of the Stanton Street Shul on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, sent out an email Wednesday, telling congregates that the synagogue, one of the oldest in the area and the only one still operating between Houston and Fourteenth Streets, has been broken into.

Honig-Friedman’s email read: “Earlier today, when Rabbi [Aviad] Bodner entered the Shul, he discovered that we had been vandalized. Thank God, no one was hurt and the damage could have been much worse. Tallitot, papers and some knick-knacks were strewn about and the lectern had been overturned. More seriously, two of the lamps on the bima (Torah reading stand) corners were pulled off and broken. Nothing was stolen, and the Torahs and ark were not touched.

“The police came and did a thorough investigation, concluding that this does not appear to have been a hate crime but rather an attempted burglary. Most likely, these were low-level thieves who broke in through the fire escape door expecting to find a collection plate with cash or other valuables that could be easily sold. Not finding anything to steal, they lashed out and threw things around. The police pulled some fingerprints and will see if they can use them to find the perpetrators.

“The police confirmed there is no reason to think these thieves will return and that no one is in any imminent danger. Nevertheless, we are working with the police to enhance our security and will let you know if and when we have any updates on the situation.

“May we come together to support each other and to strengthen our community in the wake of this unfortunate incident. I look forward to seeing you all in Shul and spending a peaceful Shabbat together.”

Stanton Street Shul is one of the last surviving tenement-style synagogues on the Lower East Side. The long and narrow, three-story building, constructed of stone and brick, is situated on a standard tenement lot, preserving the spirit of the working class Jews who prayed there for more than a century. Located in today’s decidedly non-Jewish East Village, well north of the religious Jewish community of the co-ops south of the Delancey Street Bridge, the Stanton Street Shul has been catering to a unique and colorful congregation, carrying the torch of liberal Orthodoxy and growing strong in a declining Jewish neighborhood.

Steit’s Matzos to Close Lower East Side Factory

Friday, January 9th, 2015

The Streit’s family will be closing their 90 year old Matzo factory after this coming Pesach’s baking season, according to The Jew and the Carrot blogger Liza Schoenfein.

The New York Lower East Side factory supplies 40% of the Matzos sold in the US, but financial pressures and competition are forcing the family to find a new location for their their Matzo factory.

Noah’s Ark Is Gone but Lower East Side Memories Are Kosher

Monday, December 2nd, 2013

For the old-timers still living on the Lower East Side, the recent closing of Noah’s Ark on Grand Street only evoked memories when Jews from throughout the New York metropolitan area would come to the East Side for the blintzes and “perogies” of Ratner’s and for the Chinese and deli items at Bernstein’s on Essex.

As the kosher restaurant scene in New York continues to grow, it is but a memory in the Lower East Side, of the days when almost every block had a kosher butcher store and where the best knishes could be consumed.

While the Lower East Side itself is far from a relic with many young professional Jews even moving into the neighborhood, it is no longer the kosher hub it was just a few decades ago. Jeremy, a business major at NYU, has roots in the Lower East Side. His mother’s parents grew up there, but he does not necessarily lament the closing of the last kosher restaurant in the immediate area. “My wife and I consider ourselves residents of Manhattan and within a subway stop or two, we have as many kosher restaurants as we want.”

It isn’t as if the East Side is totally bereft of kosher. It still has its share of pizza shops and bagel stores as well as a kosher grocery, but to the old timers it just doesn’t seem right. Said one retired typesetter: “We didn’t go out very much even when there were all those restaurants but it was nice to know that they were there.”

One iconic company remains on the lower East Side and in fact has recently released a film on its heritage there. Aaron Streit’s has been making Matzo on the Lower East Side since 1916. Even the Daily News was not able to do  a complete eulogy as it reported on the demise of Noah’s Ark. The News instead noted that with all of the new kosher restaurants opening in Brooklyn and Manhattan, “kosher is busting out!”

7-Eleven on Grand Street

Friday, August 9th, 2013

To most of our readers around the globe, this might not mean much. But the idea of having a 7-Eleven outlet on Grand Street, on the very hallowed ground where Jewish immigrants—workers and scholars, poor and relatively less poor—have set foot for the first time in America… Well, frankly, I’m not sure what it means, but it certainly signals change. The Lower East Side is Moishe’s Bakery, not Denny’s. It’s small, individualized, personal—not a chain of identical stores selling identical products to millions.

20130731-115350Speaking of change, according to my friends at The Lo-Down, the website serving the old neighborhood with hyper-local news and tidbits, the first customer to purchase anything at all at the new 7-Eleven was my good friend and former client, Jacob Goldman, of Loho Realty, a man who’s been embracing change on the Lower East Side since change became in again.

My daughter was absolutely overjoyed with the news—she’s been a documented Slurpee addict since Slurpee was recognized as an addiction by the APA. My daughter declared she was starting to save for a ticket back, to have her frozen flavored drink.

And so the battle is being waged – Zionism and national renewal versus Slurpee. And I’m not betting on that one.

We Are All Children Of One Creator

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

It was the mid ‘60s and I was living with my mother and brother in public housing on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. We moved there from Brooklyn a decade earlier to be near my mother’s family when my father died suddenly of a stroke.

Next door to us lived an Italian family with whom I spent a lot of time visiting. The mother was divorced from a husband who preferred using his fists rather than talking to her. I played with Mary, the youngest of the children, who was my age. However, I now wonder if I really went there to hear Mary’s mother tell me stories of her life growing up in Italy. She was a great storyteller. I felt drawn into another world and could relate to those stories because they were about family life. And many of her stories had morals.

The family at the other end of the hall consisted of Mr. and Mrs. R. and their three children. I had a close friend in Rosa, the middle child; Sonya was the oldest, Paul the youngest. I had a warm and happy relationship with each one. The mother was always chirpy and smiling. I spent hours playing Scrabble with the father, a very kind and caring person. Rosa once confided that her father was concerned because he saw me spend so much time alone looking out the hall window. Sonya was like the older sister I always wanted. When some girls stole my bike, Sonya went with me and got my bike back. She was tall and strong looking, and all she had to do was yell at the girl riding my bike in order to bring it over. The girl rode over with her two friends and silently handed it back. Sonya was my hero.

Paul, the youngest R. family member, spent a lot of time in my apartment. He visited me on many Friday nights and watched my mother light the Sabbath candles. I told him that his Hebrew name would be Pinchus. As much as he tried, he could never get the “ch” sound right. Looking back, I have no idea how we had so much to talk about, but we spent lots of time exchanging ideas. Most of the time, I felt closer to Paul than his sister Rosa.

A few years passed and I was in college. Paul moved on to other friends and no longer visited me. I remembered that he dreamt of becoming a doctor.

My mother had many friends who often visited her. One afternoon I came home and saw my mother sitting at the dining room table with Fanny, her closest friend. They both looked at me as I walked in, but neither one said a word. The room was heavy and I felt uneasy. My mother’s face had a disturbed look, both troubled and angry at the same time. Fanny was a clown and loved to make me laugh – but not on that morning. She abruptly left with just a “goodbye.” Not knowing what I was dealing with, I started some small talk with my mother, but she cut me off. It seemed that the very sound of my voice was too much for my mother to bear.

What was going on? What happened to my world? My mother made it obvious that she had nothing to say, something that never happened before. The next day was just as bad, making me glad to leave for school. On my way home, I thought that things would be better. However, it was just as awful. I pleaded with my mother to tell me what was going on. Finally she told me that the day before a lady who lived in the next courtyard heard a knock at the door. She asked who it was and heard “Western Union.” When she opened the door, a bunch of wild teenage boys rushed in. She was tied up and repeatedly attacked. By the time her husband got home, she had been mentally and physically destroyed.

My mother continued, explaining that she got a call from our neighbor, Paul R. He told her that he was calling from a payphone. He wanted to give her a warning, but before he could go into detail, he said that she must not call the police or tell anyone that he had called her – because “they” would kill him. “They,” it turned out, were the gang he belonged to, the boys who had brutalized the woman in the next courtyard. It was the first time my mother heard about the horrible attack. Paul said that the gang was going to try the same thing with her. She must not answer the door.

Lower East Side in the Eye of the Storm?

Monday, October 29th, 2012

It’s Sunday night, only hours until the super-mega-Frankenstorm Hurricane Sandy descends upon the Lower East Side, reports the Lower East Side’s LowDown website, adding: “It’s a little windy and might rain, but it may be the last time you go out for a while, so by all means — go out!”

Hurricane Sandy wind modeling from the National Weather Service.

Hurricane Sandy wind modeling from the National Weather Service.

This is crazy. For 37 years we lived on the Lower East Side and whenever a hurricane was approaching, it was always somewhere else, hundreds and thousands of miles away. Now it appears that Hurricane Sandy (did they have to pick a Jewish sounding name?) is expected to make landfall smack at the Lower East Side.

Angry Storm Clouds over the LES – photo by Vivienne Gucwa at http://nythroughthelens.com.

Angry Storm Clouds over the LES – photo by Vivienne Gucwa at http://nythroughthelens.com.

I received an email from my State Senator, Daniel Squadron, reporting that as of 7 PM, the MTA subway service stopped running. Elevators, heat and hot water were shut off in NYCHA buildings in Zone A (along the riverfront) at 7 PM. It’s possible elevators will also be shut off in other large buildings in Zone A.

At 9 PM, buses stopped running from Zone A NYCHA developments to evacuation shelters. MTA bus service also stopped running altogether at 9 PM.

The local website, The LowDown, published an image taken at the Fine Fare supermarket on Grand Street, which was packed with shoppers “stocking up before the big storm.” According to the LowDown, “the shelves are still mostly full but water and bread supplies seem to be running a little low.”

I took a look at the mandatory evacuation map and noted that the co-ops on Grand Street near the FDR Drive are not within the red zone. They should be strong enough to withstand a hurricane, with God’s help.

So now we’re sitting and waiting, here, in Netanya, Israel, for news from the old country. Our thoughts are with our family and friends on the LES – stay indoors and obey the Mayor, I suppose.

Monday morning shacharis services should be still held in the various shuls, according to an email I received from the Bialystoker Synagogue, but the weather later on Monday may prohibit people from leaving their homes safely for mincha and maariv. They will play it by ear. There are contact people in each co-op building who will know what’s the score.

The email reminded the locals that Rabbi Dovid Feinstein, the halachic authority of the neighborhood, made a shacharis minyan in his home in 2011, when Tropical Storm Irene was expected to hit the area.

The Bialystoker email thanked all the people for opening their homes for any minyanim that may be needed, and asked residents spread the word, help with chairs, siddurim, figuring out if a minyan is needed and if, should it be necessary, they may safely join a minyan in an adjacent building. Anyone who may not go to his regular minyan is asked to join a building minyan to assist those who need to say kaddish.

According to the LowDown, all day long, officials have been urging residents in New York’s Zone A to evacuate by 7 o’clock this evening. But they have been paying particular attention to the Smith Houses on James Street, near the Brooklyn Bridge. City Council member Margaret Chin and State Senator Daniel Squadron were among those on the scene at this NYCHA building, urging people to heed the evacuation order.

New Yorkers Get Together to Save a Distinctly Jewish Architectural Gem

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

The Bialystoker Nursing Home, with its distinctive orange brick and Art Deco façade, has been shut down for a year after its nonprofit operators has been unable to keep the institution in business.

Now city preservationists want to declare the building a landmark before somebody turns it into condominiums.

Indeed, the board of what used to be the nursing home wants to sell the home and adjacent properties “as quickly as possible,” as a spokeswoman told the NY Post, adding there was “significant interest” in the site.

The closed home is encumbered with serious financial debt, including $3 million which is owed to its unionized workers.

Councilwoman Margaret Chin, who represents the area, came out in support of landmarking in July. But so far Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, the most powerful man in the state and, of course, the Lower East Side, his home district, has not exactly endorsed the idea, although he did state that if the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission decides to declare the building a landmark, he would support their decision.

“This was an important place,” Sam Solasz, 85, chairman of the nursing home’s board for 24 years, told the Post. “I will fight no matter how much it costs.”

I turned to my good friend, City historian Joyce Mendelsohn, who is among the founders of Friends of the Bialystoker Home (FBH) for a little more information about the Bialystoker Home and Center, at 228 East Broadway (designed by architect Harry Hurwit in 1931). She sent me the following email:

Friends of the Bialystoker Home (FBH) is a grass roots group formed in September, 2011, out of concern for the future of the building, after it was announced that the home would be closed and patients relocated to other facilities outside the Lower East Side.

FBH organized a campaign to save the building through landmark designation after the Home was listed by Grubb and Ellis, a real estate firm, as a tear-down, or, as they put it: “a highly desirable development site.”

A landmark designation would protect the building from demolition and would require approval from the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission of all proposals by the new owner for additions or alteration to the building.

The sale of the building is imminent to a developer who would demolish this precious remnant of the Jewish legacy on the Lower East Side and replace it with luxury condos.

Neighborhood residents, concerned individuals, local groups and citywide organizations rallied to save this rare surviving building that reflects the history and culture of caring for generations of Jewish immigrants and their descendants on the Lower East Side. Sixteen Sponsoring Organizations signed on in support of landmark designation. They include the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, the Museum at Eldridge Street, Congregation Kehila Kedosha Janina, the Lower East Side Jewish Conservancy, Historic Districts Council, NYC Landmarks Conservancy, Art Deco Society of New York and the Gotham Center for NYC History, CUNY/Graduate Center.

The founders of the Home were immigrant Jews from Bialystok, Poland, who established a federation of landsmanshaftn and erected the Bialystoker Home for the Aged for their headquarters and as a sizable facility to care for the elderly and infirm. In announcing plans for this endeavor, they declared, “Our Home will combine modernity with compassion – a Home with a Heart that will stand as a monument for succeeding generations.”

Harry Hurwit – who grew up on the LES and was the architect of several smaller buildings in the neighborhood – designed the striking ten-story structure with ornament expressing its Jewish heritage. The distinctive entrance arch displays two menorahs and twelve stone medallions each representing the Twelve Tribes of Israel, surmounted by the name, “BIALYSTOKER” in Hebraic-style lettering. The building exhibits a unique combination of Jewish symbolism and deco design that signifies a community firmly rooted in traditions of their homeland and, at the same time, proclaiming their rightful place in America.

For further information and photos, go to: friendsofthelowereastside.org

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/new-yorkers-get-together-to-save-a-distinctly-jewish-architectural-gem/2012/10/22/

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