A big crowd turned out yesterday on Broome Street to celebrate the city’s designation of “Hy Genee Way.” The block between Allen Street and Eldridge Street is now co-named for the beloved former spiritual leader of Kehila Kedosha Janina, the only Greek Jewish synagogue in the Western Hemisphere.
Marcia Haddad Ikonomopoulos, director of the synagogue’s museum, recalled the lean years on the Lower East Side, in which Genee was determined to keep the congregation going. “The ceiling tiles were falling down, the plaster was falling off the walls,” she said, but Genee refused to give up on the historic building. “Without him, we would not have been here,” said Ikonomopoulos.
Kehila Kedosha Janina’s president, Marvin Marcus, said the co-naming ceremony was an opportunity to take notice of what a single person did to preserve his community. A tailor by trade (his shop was located on Delancey Street), Genee was, “a simple man with a sincere love for his heritage,” said Marcus.
Members of Genee’s family, including his children (Lois Genee Ledner and Marty Genee), were in attendance yesterday afternoon. City Council member Margaret Chin and members of Community Board 3, who supported the designation, were also on hand. There was praise all around for a young board member, Andrew Marcus, who spearheaded a petition drive in support of the co-naming.
Genee died in 2006. The synagogue has been completed restored and is a New York City landmark.