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October 24, 2014 / 30 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Stanton Street Shul’

Russian Theater Troupe Takes Residence at Stanton Street Shul

Sunday, February 17th, 2013
In September of 2012, the historic Stanton Street Shul opened its doors to The Russian Arts Theater & Studio, a non-profit theater company led by Artistic Director Aleksey Burago, a well-known theater director of Russian-Jewish background.
A graduate of Russian Academy of Theater Arts (GITIS), Aleksey studied under world famous theater director Peter Fomenko, and has since directed many shows to great critical acclaim in Moscow and St. Petersburgh.
In 2004, Aleksey began his work to create a New York theater company that would pass on the traditions of Stanislavski and Chekhov, and introduce some lesser-known Russian repertoire to American audiences.

Last year, his itinerant company of actors and designers were graciously given the second floor of the Stanton Street synagogue, where they could work undisturbed and present their next project: Dr. Chekhov’s Swan Song + Other Prescriptions, a hilarious collection of short stories based on the writings of Anton Chekhov.

The actors were thrilled to find themselves at last with a home that is both temple and oasis. A friendship quickly developed between the volunteers of the Stanton Street Shul and the artists behind the theater company. The dusty second floor was soon bustling with new energy as actors began to rehearse night and day, singing songs of Russian country life.

This is Stanton’s centennial year (it was founded back in 1913) and having an in house theatrical company seems absolutely in line with the shul’s view of itself as a kind of cultural center–on top of its religious function–to the Jews of the newer Lower East Side.

 

Of course, the Lower East Side has been home to many Russian-Jews and Yiddish theater, and it was against this backdrop that the famous Stella Adler had her first steps on stage.

Now, as The Russian Arts Theater & Studio prepares for a four-week run of the beloved short stories of Anton Chekhov, they face the exciting challenge of transforming this one-hundred year old synagogue into a Chekhovian world. Previously presented at sold-out theaters, Aleksey Burago returns with his signature staging of Anton Chekhov:

An aging actor wakes up alone inside a theater and begins to recall the past, confusing memories with beautiful hallucinations. A dream play, this animated and eccentric show includes hilarious stories such as Death of the Government Clerk, Fat and Thin, A Chorus Girl, Surgery, A Little Joke, Daughter of Albion,  and Confessions.

Featuring legendary Russian actor Ernst Zorin of the Vakhtangov Theater, and set designer Olia Rogova of the Moscow Art Theater, a stunning mix of visual images is created and featured on two different levels.

For more information on the show, please visit Russiantheater.org.

Dr. Chekhov’s Swan Song + Other Prescriptions runs from February 26th to March 23rd. Performances are in English with bits in Russian.

stanton shul theater ad

Spin the Chicken

Friday, September 21st, 2012

A young Jewish man waves a female chicken over his wife’s head in the neighborhood of Meah Shearim, Jerusalem, as part of the Kaparot ritual. The rite is supposed to transfer her sins from last year onto the innocent bird, and the sinful chicken is then given to the poor.

But, wait a minute, if the poor will eat the soup that was made from the sinful chicken, wouldn’t he or she reacquire the man’s wife’s sins?

Our Friend rabbi Josh Yuter from the Stanton Street Shul has tweeted recently that we should combine the two minhagim of Tashlich and Kaparot and throw live chickens into the ocean.

It should make a splash…

One of the few times I did Kaparot was under the Delancey Street bridge, back in the early 1980s. There was a kosher chicken market there for the holidays, and it smelled, well, fowl. The bird felt warm and frightened in my arms, and it endured silently the spinning and the verses I was saying, which, had he understood English should have alerted him to what came next…

I know he would have much preferred a swim in the ocean…

The Stanton Street Shul and the Art of David Friedman

Wednesday, August 4th, 2004

Artists have a way of calling attention to the things we really need to see. Their sensitivity and funny way of thinking shake us up, and demand that we take notice. That’s what David Friedman has done with 16 paintings on paper currently on view at the Stanton Street Shul. The diminutive paintings, each 12 inches square, were created as a whimsical decoration for the downstairs Kiddush and weekday minyan hall as part of the community Shavuos celebration. But to call them simply “whimsical” is to miss the spirit and essence of this marvelous congregation undergoing a Renaissance, a long time a-coming.

“Borsch and Coffee: Floral Abstractions,” as the series is known, utilizes raw pigment,
acrylic, ink, spray paint, marker, gold powder and, yes, borsch juice and coffee grounds. The
last two ingredients are a lighthearted tribute to Abe Roth, the 93-year-old regular who sets
out the coffee and Kiddush on Shabbos mornings, affectionately known as the “Stanton Street
Maîdre D.” Therein lies the dynamic of a congregation that recognizes that “it takes two to
tango” and Stanton Street utilizes at least two or three generations of Jews to generate the
warmth and friendliness of a real community. The 30-something David Friedman, a
professional artist who is also showing at Artists and Fleas Gallery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn,
acknowledges this in his homage to the elder statesman Abe.

David’s paintings are flights of fancy on floral forms utilizing flowers, leaves, plants and
other fantastic flora in brightly inventive color and line. They exude a vibrancy of design,
emphasized by stenciled patterns, Hebrew letters and sensuous line that visually bring the
Shavuos holiday flowers gracing the upstairs sanctuary downstairs. It is especially the vibrating
purples and reds, some actually made of beet juice, that animate the paper paintings as they
seem to float on the whitewashed walls.

If you look carefully bits of coffee grounds enliven the surface in many of the paintings,
while others are dominated by not only the texture but the smell of java too. The quip “Ain
Torah bli kemach v’ain kemach bli Torah” quickly comes to mind reflecting on the
congregation’s Shavuos meals and learning held downstairs. The paintings are simply another
expression of the community spirit and determination that is found on Stanton Street.

The light and deft touch that characterize David’s paintings arises straight out of the
diverse and friendly congregation that is simultaneously a 90-year-old survivor of the Jewish
Lower East Side and evidence of the New Jewish revival that is transforming the surrounding
neighborhood. The community bounded by East Broadway and Grand Street, only four
blocks to the south is booming with an influx of young religious couples, while the area im-

mediately around the shul is filling with trendy restaurants, clubs, and upscale shops mixing in
with the existing Spanish businesses. It is increasingly becoming a mixed neighborhood of
artists, young professionals and working people. And in that typical New York mix there are
Jews looking for some old time religion. If they are willing to roll up their sleeves and join in,
Stanton Street Shul may be just right for them.

Originally and officially known as Congregation Bnai Jacob Anschei Brzezan, the kehilla
from Brzezen in Galicia, Poland built the current building in 1913 from two existing
structures that dated from the 1840′s. A typical “tenement style” synagogue conforming to
the standard 20′ X 100′ tenement lot size, the handsome façade graced with two round
stained glass windows leads to the well worn downstairs hall and the modest main sanctuary
above. The building, now maintained as best as they can, is badly in need of basic repairs. A
new fire escape and roof are urgently needed, as are new windows and an upgrade of the
antiquated gas fired radiator heating system. Architecturally, the Stanton Street Shul is a taste
of the modest Eastern European shuls, poor in capital but extremely rich in cultural heritage.

The main sanctuary is decorated with wall paintings of the Zodiac reflecting a motif that
was once common on the Lower East Side. Long time synagogue member and docent at the
Lower East Side Conservancy, Elissa Sampson, quips that it is ironic that now, only the richest
synagogue in the neighborhood, the Bialystoker and the poorest, Stanton Street, sport Zodiac
paintings. Folk paintings of the Tower of David and Rachel’s Tomb flank the simple but
elegant hand painted wooden Ark. Both sides of the men’s section are lined with large-scale
depictions of the Zodiac, most badly in need of restoration. Most importantly, the paintings
pose a burning question for most visitors. What is a lobster doing in an Orthodox synagogue?

Lobsters, at least the painted kind, are not unheard of in American shuls that have
Zodiac decorations. Bialystoker’s lobster oversees the davening of the main sanctuary, as does
its painted brother at Stanton Street depicting the mazel of Tamuz. It may be that one artist
copied the other in a misguided attempt to depict Cancer the Crab, the equivalent Zodiac
sign. In any event, while the origin of both sets of paintings are shrouded in mystery, their
charm is clear for all to see.

The Stanton Street Shul community is equally charming, outgoing and friendly in what amounts to an uncommon partnership between the young and old, to build a growing congregation. The elders of the congregation are respected; some say venerated, and they respond with a warmth that brings alive the legacy of Polish Jewry. The congregation’s president, Benny Sauerhaft, recently had his 89th birthday celebration at a shul Kiddush. David Friedman sculpted his portrait for the occasion. It looked exactly like the 40-year veteran of the shul and tasted good too! Yes, it was sculpted out of chopped liver and vegetables and the congregation enjoyed the masterpiece up to the last morsel. That’s just the kind of creative and nourishing partnership these Jews, young and old, singles and families have down on the new and improved Jewish Lower East Side.

“Borsch and Coffee: Floral Abstractions,” by David Friedman. The Stanton Street Shul
(Congregation Bnai Jacob Anschei Brzezan), 180 Stanton Street, between Clinton and
Attorney Streets, NY, NY 212-533-4122; www.stantonstreetshul.com . David Freidman,
fryfryfry@hotmail.com


Richard McBee is a painter of Torah subject matter and writer on Jewish Art. Please feel free to contact him with comments at www.richardmcbee.com.

The Stanton Street Shul And The Art Of David Friedman

Wednesday, July 14th, 2004

Artists have a way of calling attention to the things we really need to see. Their sensitivity and funny way of thinking shake us up, and demand that we take notice. That’s what David Friedman has done with 16 paintings on paper currently on view at the Stanton Street Shul. The diminutive paintings, each 12 inches square, were created as a whimsical decoration for the downstairs Kiddush and weekday minyan hall as part of the community Shavuos celebration. But to call them simply “whimsical” is to miss the spirit and essence of this marvelous congregation undergoing a Renaissance, a long time a-coming.

“Borsch and Coffee: Floral Abstractions,” as the series is known, utilizes raw pigment, acrylic, ink, spray paint, marker, gold powder and, yes, borsch juice and coffee grounds. The last two ingredients are a lighthearted tribute to Abe Roth, the 93-year-old regular who sets out the coffee and Kiddush on Shabbos mornings, affectionately known as the “Stanton Street Maîdre D.” Therein lies the dynamic of a congregation that recognizes that “it takes two to tango” and Stanton Street utilizes at least two or three generations of Jews to generate the warmth and friendliness of a real community. The 30-something David Friedman, a professional artist who is also showing at Artists and Fleas Gallery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, acknowledges this in his homage to the elder statesman Abe.

David’s paintings are flights of fancy on floral forms utilizing flowers, leaves, plants and other fantastic flora in brightly inventive color and line. They exude a vibrancy of design, emphasized by stenciled patterns, Hebrew letters and sensuous line that visually bring the Shavuos holiday flowers gracing the upstairs sanctuary downstairs. It is especially the vibrating purples and reds, some actually made of beet juice, that animate the paper paintings as they seem to float on the whitewashed walls.

If you look carefully bits of coffee grounds enliven the surface in many of the paintings, while others are dominated by not only the texture but the smell of java too. The quip “Ain Torah bli kemach v’ain kemach bli Torah” quickly comes to mind reflecting on the congregation’s Shavuos meals and learning held downstairs. The paintings are simply another expression of the community spirit and determination that is found on Stanton Street.

The light and deft touch that characterize David’s paintings arises straight out of the diverse and friendly congregation that is simultaneously a 90-year-old survivor of the Jewish Lower East Side and evidence of the New Jewish revival that is transforming the surrounding neighborhood. The community bounded by East Broadway and Grand Street, only four
blocks to the south is booming with an influx of young religious couples, while the area immediately around the shul is filling with trendy restaurants, clubs, and upscale shops mixing in
with the existing Spanish businesses. It is increasingly becoming a mixed neighborhood of
artists, young professionals and working people. And in that typical New York mix there are
Jews looking for some old time religion. If they are willing to roll up their sleeves and join in,
Stanton Street Shul may be just right for them.

Originally and officially known as Congregation Bnai Jacob Anschei Brzezan, the kehilla
from Brzezen in Galicia, Poland built the current building in 1913 from two existing
structures that dated from the 1840′s. A typical “tenement style” synagogue conforming to
the standard 20′ X 100′ tenement lot size, the handsome façade graced with two round
stained glass windows leads to the well worn downstairs hall and the modest main sanctuary
above. The building, now maintained as best as they can, is badly in need of basic repairs. A
new fire escape and roof are urgently needed, as are new windows and an upgrade of the
antiquated gas fired radiator heating system. Architecturally, the Stanton Street Shul is a taste
of the modest Eastern European shuls, poor in capital but extremely rich in cultural heritage.

The main sanctuary is decorated with wall paintings of the Zodiac reflecting a motif that
was once common on the Lower East Side. Long time synagogue member and docent at the
Lower East Side Conservancy, Elissa Sampson, quips that it is ironic that now, only the richest
synagogue in the neighborhood, the Bialystoker and the poorest, Stanton Street, sport Zodiac
paintings. Folk paintings of the Tower of David and Rachel’s Tomb flank the simple but
elegant hand painted wooden Ark. Both sides of the men’s section are lined with large-scale
depictions of the Zodiac, most badly in need of restoration. Most importantly, the paintings
pose a burning question for most visitors. What is a lobster doing in an Orthodox synagogue?

Lobsters, at least the painted kind, are not unheard of in American shuls that have Zodiac decorations. Bialystoker’s lobster oversees the davening of the main sanctuary, as does its painted brother at Stanton Street depicting the mazel of Tamuz. It may be that one artist copied the other in a misguided attempt to depict Cancer the Crab, the equivalent Zodiac sign. In any event, while the origin of both sets of paintings are shrouded in mystery, their charm is clear for all to see.

The Stanton Street Shul community is equally charming, outgoing and friendly in what amounts to an uncommon partnership between the young and old, to build a growing congregation. The elders of the congregation are respected; some say venerated, and they respond with a warmth that brings alive the legacy of Polish Jewry. The congregation’s president, Benny Sauerhaft, recently had his 89th birthday celebration at a shul Kiddush. David Friedman sculpted his portrait for the occasion. It looked exactly like the 40-year veteran of the shul and tasted good too! Yes, it was sculpted out of chopped liver and vegetables and the congregation enjoyed the masterpiece up to the last morsel. That’s just the kind of creative and nourishing partnership these Jews, young and old, singles and families have down on the new and improved Jewish Lower East Side.

“Borsch and Coffee: Floral Abstractions,” by David Friedman. The Stanton Street Shul
(Congregation Bnai Jacob Anschei Brzezan), 180 Stanton Street, between Clinton and
Attorney Streets, NY, NY 212-533-4122; www.stantonstreetshul.com. David Freidman,
fryfryfry@hotmail.com.

  
Richard McBee is a painter of Torah subject matter and writer on Jewish Art. Please feel free to contact him with comments at www.richardmcbee.com.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/the-stanton-street-shul-and-the-art-of-david-friedman/2004/07/14/

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