Lower East Side shuls rebound. The Villager reports:
While a strong Orthodox community continues to thrive around the Grand St. co-ops and the Bialystoker Synagogue, ancient shuls from Delancey to Houston St. stand like lonely outposts of a bygone era. As younger Jews flock to the blocks their great-grandparents or grandparents might have fled the minute they could afford to, Orthodox rabbis are hoping some of them will be attracted to local services.
“I want to build a shul where everyone is welcome,” said Rabbi Azriel Siff of Chasam Sofer, quick to add he means an Orthodox congregation. “I want to build a community center where for anybody who has any issues Jewish related, the place is going to be 80 Clinton St.”
Chasam Sofer synagogue, the area’s oldest functioning shul, is finally finishing a 30-year renovation process begun by the congregation’s wealthy benefactor, Moses Weiser. It has hosted daily minions (a gathering of 10 men for prayer believed to be a commandment) consistently over the past decades, even through periods when it had to pay people to show up at 7 a.m. The temple no longer has to struggle to muster the required quorum of 10 men, and a consistent showing of 20 to 30 worshipers now attend Shabbat services, said Siff. The Stanton St. Shul, a much smaller tenement synagogue around the corner, is also attracting more attendees, but still struggling to combat decrepit building conditions like a leaky roof.
“I’ve seen kids in T-shirts, ski caps and green hair in that place,” said Laurie Tobias Cohen, director of the Lower East Side Conservancy, describing some men who joined recently. Even with some more worshipers, though, the Stanton St. congregation is still pleading for monetary support for repairs.
“We call it a boutique synagogue. You might have to RSVP. There might be a roped line. It will totally be a scene. But it’s all kosher,” explained Dovi Scheiner, a thin, 28-year-old [Chabad] Orthodox rabbi dressed casually in black pants and an untucked white button-down, with tallith strings hanging down from his waist.