Just in Time For the Jewish Holidays, Restored Window Installed at Stanton Street Shul

Photo by Elissa Sampson.

Photo by Elissa Sampson.

When members of the Stanton Street Shul arrive for Yom Kippur services this coming weekend, they will be greeted by a meaningful new addition to the century-old building.

It’s a restored stained glass window rescued from Beth Hamedrash Hagadol Anshe Ungarn, a synagogue on East Seventh Street that was converted to a private home in the 1980s. The local artist who handled the restoration, Patti Kelly, donated the window in the memory of Ralph Feldman, her good friend who died in 2015. The window was recently installed in the back of the Stanton Street Shul, as part of a larger renovation project.

Rabbi Aviad Bodner let us know about the installation the other day, and Elissa Sampson, a member of the congregation, sent along the photo you see above. She also forwarded the photo to Kelly, who replied, “I’m sure Ralph is smiling.”

See below for the text of our original story about the window. If you would like to have a look for yourself, Rabbi Bodner points out that Yom Kippur services (Friday and Saturday) are free of charge. All are welcome. You can register here. On Sunday, there’s a sukkah decorating party across the street from the synagogue in the Siempre Verde Community Garden. Here’s the Facebook invite.


(Originally published April 3, 2015)

Jews across the Lower East Side are busy preparing for the start of Passover this evening. But at the Stanton Street Shul yesterday morning, there was another meaningful project in the works. Rabbi Aviad Bodner was receiving a special gift in memory of Ralph Feldman, a well-known member of the community – a local legend – who died in February.

Local artist Patti Kelly donated a beautiful stained glass Star of David window that was rescued decades ago from a former synagogue, Beth Hamedrash Hagadol Anshe Ungarn, on East Seventh Street. Feldman, a former New York City fire marshal and building owner, attended services at the Stanton Street Shul in recent years.

In an interview yesterday, Kelly said Feldman used to stop by her Eighth Street studio to watch her restore the window, a painstaking process that spanned several years. “He got the biggest kick (out of the fact that) this Irish Catholic girl was doing the restoration” of a Jewish artifact,” she said. After Feldman’s memorial service in February, which was led by Rabbi Bodner, Kelly decided it would only be fitting to offer the window to the Stanton Street Shul.

The rabbi said the piece will become a prominent feature in the continuing restoration of the synagogue building. In the next several months, he explained, a new campaign will be launched to raise the necessary funds for the project. When those plans start to take shape, it will be decided exactly where the stained glass window will go. It hung over the alter of Beth Hamedrash Hagadol Anshe Ungarn, which was long ago converted to a private residence.

The photos you see here were taken by Elissa Sampson, a longtime friend of Ralph Feldman. She recalled the day in 1982 in which he “literally prevented the Eighth Street Shul (located next door to his home) from burning down.” The experience turned the non-observant Jew into a shul-goer. In 1998, Feldman and local activist Clayton Patterson worked to save the synagogue from disrepair, but the congregation ending up selling the building anyway. That’s when Feldman started going to Stanton Street.

Kelly said Feldman, who bought and fixed up dozens of dilapidated buildings throughout the neighborhood, had a unique appreciation for his new shul, one of the last tenement synagogues remaining on the Lower East Side.  Over the years, she rebuilt the window frame and designed the centerpiece element, which depicts the Ten Commandments. “My job,” she said, “is to hold on to the original integrity of the piece and to honor the original work.”  Donating the piece, Kelly told us, “makes me feel good. It was the best way I could think of to honor our friendship.”

The relationship between Feldman and Kelly was a special one. Baruch Herzfeld, a close friend of Feldman, said they were kindred spirits — both tough New York characters who embodied all of the best characteristics of the Lower East Side’s artist community.  Speaking of Kelly, Elissa Sampson added, “She is really giving something whose value is quite precious. It goes beyond the extraordinary. Patti deeply wants to inspire Ralph’s friends and family to also memorialize him in a way that gives back to community.”

Rabbi Bodner with Patti Kelly in 2015. Photos by Elissa Sampson.

Rabbi Bodner with Patti Kelly in 2015. Photos by Elissa Sampson.

Stanton Street Shul Begins Urgent Building Repairs

180 Stanton St.

180 Stanton St.

Urgent repairs just began at the Stanton Street Shul, part of a larger plan to protect one of the last remaining active synagogues on the Lower East Side.

The announcement was made yesterday by the leadership of the modern Orthodox congregation at 180 Stanton St. The project includes masonry repair and waterproofing. Crews are re-coating the roof, repairing brickwork in the back of the 103-year-old building and working on the interior of the rear wall.

According to a press release, “The current repairs are the first step in a larger renovation and restoration project that the congregation plans to undertake in order to ensure the longevity of its building, both as a living piece of a Lower East Side history whose landmarks are rapidly disappearing, and as a home for its vibrant and growing worship community.”

The renovation project is being paid for with several grants from the New York Landmarks Conservancy, as well as from private donations. The synagogue received a $30,000 challenge grant from the conservancy’s Jewish Heritage Fund. Historic architect Zach Rice is supervising the work, with Silman Associates as structural engineers and West New York Restoration as general contractor. The project is expected to extend through the summer and will be completed before the Jewish High Holidays begin in the fall.

Jeff Katz, who serves on the board of directors as treasurer, told us the next step will be completing a master plan. The objective, he said, is to address all of the building’s needs, including plumbing, electrical, structural and cosmetic issues, “ensuring the Stanton Street Shul’s preservation as a historic synagogue, one of only two tenement synagogues on the Lower East Side.”

The historically poor congregation struggled to care for the 1913 building over the last several decades. But the synagogue, which is known as an unusually welcoming and intimate house of worship, has seen its membership grow in recent years. That trend has continued under the leadership of Rabbi Aviad Bodner, who has been at the Stanton Street Shul since 2014. The congregation is now in a better position to undertake a comprehensive renovation, which will ultimately cost several million dollars. The building is listed on the national and state registers of historic places but is not a city landmark.

The initial work was approved many months ago, but the recent destructive fire at another Lower East Side synagogue, Beth Hamedrash Hagadol, has added urgency to Stanton Street’s preservation efforts. Katz said it is imperative that, “we remain (in the neighborhood), given that other synagogues have ceased to exist.”

While a master plan will determine the scope of the larger project, Katz estimated the renovation would cost close to $5 million. The synagogue will likely be eligible for more grants from the Landmarks Conservancy, as well as from other sources. Local fundraising will also be undertaken, both within the congregation and in the larger Lower East Side community. Anyone wishing to help the shul, said Katz, can make a donation and/or participate in services at what he called, “one of the most welcoming shuls in the city.”

In the weeks since the fire at Beth Hamedrash Hagadol, more than a few people have told us they wish they’d stepped forward to help ensure the synagogue’s survival. It’s too late for the Norfolk Street landmark, which is headed for almost certain demolition. In the aftermath of the fire, said Katz, “It’s a time for activism, and not a time to stand on the sidelines.”

For more information about the Stanton Street Shul, visit the synagogue’s website or Facebook page. You can also send an email to info@stantonstreetshul.com.

Lower East Side Rabbis Speak Out Against Neighborhood Shuls For Hosting LGBT Event

Stanton Street Shul, 180 Stanton St.

Stanton Street Shul, 180 Stanton St.

Several Lower East Side rabbis, and a few from outside the neighborhood, are calling on two local synagogues to “publicly distance themselves” from a group pushing for acceptance of gay Jews in Orthodox congregations.

The Eshel Downtown Shabbaton is scheduled to take place this coming weekend at the Stanton Street Shul and the Sixth Street Community Synagogue. According to Eshel’s website, the organization’s mission “is to create community and acceptance for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Jews and their families in Orthodox communities.”

As The Jewish Press first reported in a story that carried no byline, rabbis from the Bialystoker Synagogue, Young Israel of Manhattan and Congregation Chasam Sofer were among a group that released a statement titled, “An Important Message to the Community.” The letter was also signed by Rabbis David and Reuven Feinstein, the sons of Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, a towering figure in Orthodox Judaism who died in the 1980s.

The statement read, in part:

There has been a monumental shift in the larger world’s attitude towards homosexual expression over recent years. Unfortunately, acceptance of what the Torah forbids has seeped into parts of the Jewish community, including parts that identify as Orthodox… All Jews, whatever their challenges or levels of observance, are welcome in all of our shuls. However, the basic mandate of the Orthodox synagogue is to promote fidelity in our Torah and our mesorah. Sadly, Eshel demands that we change the Torah’s timeless standards to accord with prevalent secular attitudes. We are saddened that the Stanton Street Shul and the Sixth Street Community Synagogue have unilaterally chosen to associate our community with an organization that we cannot consider to be Orthodox… No Jewish that allies itself with such a group can rightfully claim to be Orthodox. We call upon (the synagogues) to publicly distance themselves from Eshel and its decidedly non-Orthodox worldview.

This morning, we contacted Rabbi Aviad Bodner of the Stanton Street Shul. He provided the following statement:

At the Stanton Street Shul, I’m proud to partner with the board in our decision to embrace the LGBT Jewish community, welcome them in our shul, and love and encourage them to observe mitzvot to the best of their ability just as we do with every Jew who joins our community. This is not a compromise but rather an expression of the mitzvah ואהבת לרעך כמוך – Love thy neighbor as yourself. It’s that simple, and it’s unfortunate that we need to justify our obligation to observe one of the greatest values of Judaism. We believe that we may invite an organization or and individual to come to the Stanton Street Shul even if we do not agree on everything or even strongly disagree. The rabbis who made the statement do not have the monopoly over Orthodoxy or the Torah. Disagreements are healthy and welcome, but they must be voiced with respect. Decisions about what is best for each shul will rightfully differ, but they should be left to the synagogue leadership, and no one should be subject to public shaming.

The Stanton Street Shul, established in 1913, is one of the only tenement synagogues left on the Lower East Side. It has a longstanding reputation for welcoming people from all types of backgrounds and walks of life. As The Jewish Press noted, the shul is seen as an alternative to the more traditional synagogues (such as the Bialystocker), which serve the Grand Street Jewish community.

The article intimates that Stanton Street Shul could be in jeopardy if it doesn’t acquiesce to the demands in the rabbinical letter. The prospects for “a herem,” an excommunication, is seen, at least in some quarters, as an idle threat  regarding a shul that’s served the Lower East Side community for more than 100 years.


Stanton Street Shul Holds Installation Event For Rabbi Aviad Bodner

Stanton Street Shul Burglarized; Only Minimal Damage Reported

This Weekend on Stanton Street: A Sukkah Decorating Party

Local Artist Donates Restored Window to Shul in Memory of Ralph Feldman

Family Fun: Celebrate Spring at the Stanton Street Shul on Sunday May 18

Rabbi Josh Yuter Announces Departure From Stanton Street Shul

Photos: Simchat Torah on Stanton Street

Stanton Street. All photos by Clayton Patterson.

Stanton Street. All photos by Clayton Patterson.

It was festive in the streets Thursday evening as the Stanton Street Shul celebrated Simchat Torah.

Stanton Street Shul Invites Community For Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur Services

The Stanton Street Shul is spreading the word that all are welcome for the Jewish High Holy Days, which begin next week.

Stanton Street Shul Reaches Initial Fundraising Goal; $20,000 Still Needed

Stanton Street Shul.

Rabbi Josh Yuter at the Stanton Street Shul let us know that they have raised $10,000 through crowdfunding site Lucky Ant, which means the synagogue’s post-Hurricane Sandy campaign to repair water damage has been successful.  But Stanton Street still must raise a total of $30,000 to be eligible for matching funds through the New York Landmarks Conservancy.  The money will go towards repairing the roof at 180 Stanton Street.  Click here if you would like to help.


The Chalk Project: Remembering the Triangle Fire 101 Years Later

Photos courtesy Stanton Street Shul and Yenta Laureate.

On Sunday, people from all walks of life paused to remember the 146 victims of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, 101 years after one of New York’s most devastating tragedies.  Every year since 2004, volunteers have chalked the names of the victims on sidewalks across the city.  During the weekend, the Stanton Street Shul participated in this relatively new tradition, saying Kaddish for the dead and chalking in memory of the Rosen family, who lived at 78 Clinton Street.

Yenta Laureate, who sent us these photos, explained: “Julia Rosen, was a widowed mother and new immigrant who had worked at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in order to earn the money to send for her 14 year old son, Israel, who was still in Europe. Once he came to New York, (Israel) then worked with her there.” 

Stanton Street Shul Holds Purim Talent Showcase Tonight

Happy pre-Purim! There are quite a few activities planned throughout the neighborhood in the next couple of days, including this evening’s Purim Talent Showcase at the Stanton Street Shul. It begins at 9:30pm, following Maariv services and the megillah reading. In addition to the entertainment, there will be refreshments, hamentashen and klezmer music throughout the evening. There’s a $10 suggested donation at the door. The historic Stanton Street Shul is located at 180 Stanton Street (between Clinton and Attorney streets).

Stanton Street Shul to Host Purim Talent Showcase

As part of their Purim holiday festivities, The Stanton Street Shul will be hosting a talent showcase. They write: The Stanton Street Shul is overjoyed (it is Adar after all) to announce a Purim Talent Showcase. If you sing, dance, act, tell jokes, perform magic or have any other talents, now is your time to shine! Enjoy refreshments, hamentashen and klezmer music throughout the evening. Spread the word and bring your friends –- The more the merrier!

Get your act together and sign up here by March 7th.  The showcase will be held on Saturday, March 19th (following Maariv services and megillah reading) at 9:30 pm // $10 suggested // 180 Stanton Street.