Jewish New Amsterdam Tour on Sunday Morning

Lower East Side Synagogues Hold Open Houses This Coming Weekend

Jewish Heritage Festival Scheduled Sunday as Part of LES History Month

Jewish Conservancy Advocates For New Home as Redevelopment Nears

As we reported yesterday, six remaining tenants at 400 Grand Street, which will be demolished next year to make way for the Essex Crossing project, are fighting for relocation rights.   But another tenant in the building, the Lower East Side Jewish Conservancy, is also concerned about its future.

Jewish Heritage Festival Planned Sunday; Special Walking Tour to Support Jewish Conservancy

Rebecca Lepkoff.

We’re still recovering from a hurricane and in the middle of riding out a nor’easter, but by the weekend (hopefully) many of us will be looking for a few diversions.  One option is the 3rd annual Jewish Heritage Festival.  The event, a project of the LES Jewish Conservancy, will be held Sunday and features the incomparable Lower East Side photographer Rebecca Lepkoff.  At 1:30 p.m. there will be an opening for her new exhibition, “On the Cusp of Change: The LES, 1935-1975,” at the conservancy’s Visitor Center, 400 Grand Street. Lepkoff, 96, will be present on Sunday to answer questions, and will be introduced by historian Suzanne Wasserman.

Followup: Jewish Conservancy’s Work to Preserve Norfolk Street Synagogue

Beth Hamedrash Hagadol, 60 Norfolk Street.

Earlier this week, we published a story about the future of Beth Hamedrash Hagadol, the landmarked synagogue at 60 Norfolk Street.  The synagogue’s rabbi, Mendl Greenbaum, has been looking for developers interested in purchasing and restoring the run-down building, while providing some space in the facility for religious services.  The story made reference to efforts by the LES Jewish Conservancy to help the rabbi secure public funds for the building’s rehabilitation.  Today we have a few more details about the Conservancy’s advocacy on behalf of Beth Hamedrash Hagadol.

  • Former City Councilman Alan Gerson earmarked $750,000 in capital funds for the synagogue’s preservation in 2006.  Those funds were rescinded as the economic downturn set in two years later.  Rabbi Greenbaum had been in the process of applying for non-profit status with the state, a requirement of the city grant.  The recession forced the city to pull back on any projects that had not already begun.
  • In late 2008, the Conservancy was awarded a  planning grant from the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation.  The grant enabled it to hire Li -Saltzman Architects, a well-known preservation firm, to conduct a comprehensive study of the building and to develop architectural plans for restoration.  It was an 18-month undertaking.  In the past month, the Conservancy noted, the rabbi asked for access to those plans.
  • Last year, a New York state Historic Preservation matching grant of $230,000 was turned down by Rabbi Greenbaum. According to the Conservancy, he chose not to accept the grant “due to the lack of an existing match” and because of a number of restrictions the synagogue would have been required to honor if the funds had been accepted.


Rabbi Seeks Partners in Synagogue Restoration

Beth Hamedrash Hagadol, 60 Norfolk Street.

If you think you’ve seen more guys in suits walking in and out of Lower East Side buildings lately, it’s probably not your imagination.  Real estate insiders say interest in the neighborhood has skyrocketed this summer.  The reason is simple: the impending approval of the sweeping Seward Park residential and retail development plan. Unsurprisingly, developers are hoping to snap up properties around the seven acre development parcel as quickly (and as cheaply) as they possibly can.  So it doesn’t come as much of a surprise that there’s been renewed interest of late in one of the LES’s most neglected historic sites — the shuttered Beth Hamedrash Hagadol Synagogue at 60 Norfolk Street.

The distressed building sits right in the middle of the Seward Park development area.  Interestingly, Beth Hamedrash Hagadol’s legendary spiritual leader, Rabbi Ephraim Oshry, led a successful effort in 1967 to designate the Gothic Revival structure as a New York City landmark.  1967 was the year that almost every other Seward Park building was bulldozed in the name of urban renewal.   But now, 45 years later, neglect and decay might accomplish what the bulldozers did not.

LES Jewish Conservancy Raising Money for Pushcart

Our friends at the LES Jewish Conservancy asked us to help get the word out about their crowdfunding campaign.  They’re trying to raise enough money to fully stock a gift-store pushcart for their Visitor Center at 400 Grand Street.  More details in the video posted above.


Michael Bolla, LES Conservancy Host “Shabbaton” This Coming Weekend

The LES Jewish Conservancy is teaming up with real estate guru Michael Bolla for a big event this coming weekend — a 24 hour immersion on the Lower East Side.  The Jewish Adventure or “Shabbaton,” includes performances from MODI and Mo Kiss,  prayer sessions in several LES shuls, talks from local rabbis, guided tours of the neighborhood and special kosher meals.

Bolla has made no secret of his desire to attract Jews back to the Lower East Side. It’s part of his marketing strategy at the Madison Jackson, the condo conversion that will (apparently) hit the open market sometime soon.  Click here for more information.


Photo Exhibit, Jewelry Sale, Walking Tours Offered at Jewish Conservancy Sunday

Photo by Paul Weissman.

On Sunday, the LES Jewish Conservancy presents its second annual Heritage Festival.  The day’s events include the opening (1:30 p.m.) of Paul Weissman’s photo exhibition, “Before the Change,” an exploration of life on the Lower East Side in the 70’s and 80’s, before gentrification took hold.

At 11:30 a.m., it’s “Gals From the Hood” an informal conversation and benefit jewelry sale featuring four women who grew up in the neighborhood and have been friends for 50 years. They are: Marilyn Guss Altman (Guss’ Pickles), Carol Hordin (whose father ran a Jewish deli) Carol Schneider Margolin (her father sold knishes from a  pushcart) and Hesta Fortgang (who will be displaying her handmade fashion jewelry).

Art Opening, Neighborhood Reminiscing at the LES Jewish Conservancy Sunday

Photo by Julian Voloj.

It should be an interesting day at the Lower East Side Jewish Conservancy on Sunday. The organization, which established a Visitor Center at 400 Grand Street earlier this year, is planning a LES Art & Architecture Festival.

The event includes the opening of the center’s first gallery show — the photography of writer and photographer, Julian Voloj. The exhibit, titled, “If You Live in New York,” is an exploration of “Jewish heritage in the home of the world’s largest Jewish Diaspora.” The opening takes place from 11 a.m.-1 p.m.

Then at 11:30 a.m., it’s the “Gals from the ‘hood” Tchotchkes & Jewelry Benefit Sale! This event features Hesta Fortgang, (co-owner of Tag-Along Estate Sales), Marilyn Guss Altman of Guss’s Pickles, Carol Schneider Margolin, daugher of the K’nish Ma,n and Carol Hordin, of Hordin’s Deli. They will all be present to share their stories and images from the Lower East Side, circa 1950-1975.  All proceeds from the sale benefit the Conservancy, but the event is free.

The Conservancy is also offering historic neighborhood tours at 11:30, 1:30 and 2:30.  Reservations are suggested for the tours. Visit the Conservancy’s web site for more information.

Morning Reads: LES Architecture, EV Tenants Protest, Newcomer No Fun

  • The design of the Sperone Westwater gallery at 275 Bowery has garnered a prestigious award. (NY Observer)
  • Speaking of architecture, the Lower East Side Art & Architecture Fest is coming up Oct. 30. (LES Jewish Conservancy)
  • Landlord Ben Shaoul’s tenants at 515 E. Fifth St. stage a protest this morning against illegal additions on their building, the latest episode in an ongoing drama. (EV Grieve)
  • Jay Weilminster, rocker and co-owner of  No Fun, a new bar on Ludlow Street, says the LES hasn’t lost its soul. Also, he recommends the sliders. (Village Voice)

Jewish Conservancy Visitor Center Targets Spring Opening

You may have noticed an addition to 400 Grand Street in the past few days: a brand new awning. The future home of the the LES Jewish Conservancy is coming along. We’re told the organization’s Visitor Center, formerly Ruby’s Fruits,  is now expected to open in the spring.  Speaking of the Conservancy, you can find a listing f their upcoming events (including walking tours) on our Community Calendar.

Inside Jewish Sacred Sites with the LES Conservancy

The LES Jewish Conservancy's new visitor center, 400 Grand Street.

Last month, we reported the Lower East Side Jewish Conservancy is preparing to open a new Visitor Center at 400 Grand Street later this summer.  If you walk by the storefront, formerly Ruby’s Fruits, you might notice a poster promoting the Conservancy’s new “Insider Tours,” abbreviated versions of their more detailed neighborhood walking excursions. Recently, we were invited to experience the tours for ourselves.