Shuls of New York City
My journey back to Judaism lead me to helping Holocaust survivors and creating a book of 613 photos of shuls in the five boroughs.
I wasn’t brought up very observant but after a Men's J Inspire trip to Israel in May 2016 with Aish HaTorah, I started to deepen my Jewish understanding and strengthen my commitment to Judaism. I’ve worked as an Investment Advisor for over 20 years and after the financial crisis of a few years prior, I considered myself a survivor of sorts. I found a refuge in learning the wisdom of Torah. After all, if Rabbi Akiva could start learning Torah after age 40, it was not too late for me.
My great grandparents were from a town called Pinsk, part of the Pale of Settlement in Russia, and like so many, they left to escape the pogroms, persecutions and poverty that was thwarting religious freedom. In 1896 my great grandfather, Meir, came alone to the shores of the United States and sent for his wife Nachama and their three children in 1900. (Two more children were born in Brooklyn.)
Meir changed his name to Morris and Nechama became Anna.
I loved the memories of my family living in Brooklyn, particularly my grandparents' Passover Seders, the kosher food and the Shabbat. So after my trip to Israel, I began to learn Torah and reconnect with the ways of my grandparents and great grandparents. I wanted to do something positive to help others but I didn’t know what to do. I prayed to God, “Master of the World, help me help others.”
Somehow, I went to Google and typed two words: “Mitzvah” and Brooklyn,” and pressed the enter key. The result was finding Michael Cohen, known in Brooklyn as "the mitzvah man." Michael had a video (www.themitzvahman.org) talking about the importance of a mitzvah and helping others. his motto was “Providing chesed to those in need” and just like that, I knew what to do. I started by visiting a Holocaust survivor. And one mitzvah led to another mitzvah as I volunteered at Friendly Visiting for Holocaust Survivors, a program of the JCC of Greater Coney Island, meeting over 23 Holocaust survivors over the course of the next year.
Spending time with survivors all over Brooklyn lead me to start visiting orthodox synagogues in neighborhoods such as Borough Park, Brighton Beach, Coney Island, Flatbush, and Midwood. I gave tzedakah and prayed. And I started taking photos, intending to make a book of 100 orthodox synagogues of Brooklyn.
I realized that this book would be a perfect tribute to my great grandparents who started on the Lower East Side in Manhattan. My grandfather, born in a tenement on the Lower East Side, lost his mother when he was 7 and was sent to live with his older sister in the Bronx. My father married and moved from Brooklyn to Briarwood, Queens where I lived until age three. My great grandparents are buried at the United Hebrew Cemetery in Staten Island. So I'm a real New Yorker with roots in all five boroughs.
With God’s help I published a book, “Ten Times Chai: 180 Orthodox Synagogues of New York City,” a coffee table photo book with 613 color photos of existing orthodox synagogues in the five boroughs.
Enjoy the following selection of photos from my book.
Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills, Queens. Founded 1951
Young Israel Beth El of Borough Park, Brooklyn. Founded 1902
Sephardic Jewish Congregation, Forest Hills, Queens. Founded 1958
Congregation Emunath Israel, The Chelsea Shul, Chelsea, Manhattan. Founded 1865
Sephardic Lebanese Congregation, Midwood, Brooklyn. Founded 1989
Kehila Kedosha Janina, Lower East Side, Manhattan. Founded 1907
Bukharian Jewish Congregation of Jamaica Estates, Queens. Founded 2004
Bialystoker Synagogue, Lower East Side, Manhattan. Founded 1865
Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun, Upper East Side, Manhattan. Founded 1872
Congregation Yetev Lev D' Satmar, Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Founded 1948
Park East Synagogue, Upper East Side, Manhattan. Founded 1888
Congregation Beth Torah, Midwood, Brooklyn. Founded in 1963