from the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation
August 15, 2008
Yesterday's press conference to save the Congregation Mezritch Synagogue, the East Village's last surviving 'tenement synagogue,' was a tremendous success. Scores of people turned out in support; special thanks go to City Councilmember Rosie Mendez, the United Jewish Council of the East Side, the Lower East Side Conservancy, the Historic Districts Council, members of Congregation Mezritch who support preserving the building, and most especially the East Village Community Coalition (EVCC), both for organizing yesterday's press conference and for spearheading the drive to save the building.For pictures and a press release from yesterday's press conference, see below ; see also coverage in the New York Times, the Associated Press, the New York Sun, the New York Post, AM NY, Preservation Magazine, Urbanite, and Curbed.There is some progress to report. While there is an application for demolition permits for the synagogue, no permits have yet been issued by the Department of Buildings. In response to the public outcry, the developer who was supposed to replace the 1910 synagogue with an apartment building containing a new synagogue in the base yesterday announced that they are "as of now...no longer affiliated with this project." And the Landmarks Preservation Commission is reviewing the proposal by GVSHP and EVCC to landmark the property. But the building is still far from saved.GVSHP is working with our allies in this effort to find alternatives for preserving this precious historic site. We need your help to keep the momentum going!HOW TO HELP:
Write to the Landmarks Preservation Commission, urging they consider landmark designation of Congregation Mezritch Synagogue as soon as possible -- go to here for a sample letter and contact information you can use.
Click on thumbnails for full-size photos.
For Immediate Release August 14, 2008
Congregants, Elected Officials, Community & Preservation Organizations, & Historians
Call to Halt the Destruction of Historic Synagogue
Adas Yisroel Anshe Meseritz (415 East 6th Street)
by Developer Joshua Kushner & Call for Landmark Designation
Manhattan – Congregants gathered today with elected officials, Jewish-American community leaders, preservationists, historians, and long-time area residents called for halting the destruction of the historic Adas Yisroel Anshe Meseritz Synagogue, and to call for official landmark designation of this important building. Prominent synagogue members questioned the transparency of the synagogue board’s agreement with Joshua Kushner & the Kushner Companies to destroy the historic synagogue.
The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation and East Village Community Coalition have called upon the City to landmark the building, which would prevent its demolition. A copy of the Request for Evaluation is included here. To view photographs of Meseritz Synagogue, and for an online version of the letter to Landmarks Preservation Commission, see: http://gvshp.org/documents/CongregationMezritchDoc.pdf.
An application for Demolition was filed on June 18th, 2008 for FULL DEMOLITION of the synagogue. The application can be found on the NYC Department of Buildings website at
Meseritz Synagogue is the Lower East Side’s last operating neoclassical “tenement synagogue”, named for how it elegantly fits into a narrow mid-block lot. The style and history of Meseritz Synagogue strongly resemble that of the recently-landmarked Beth Hamedrash Hagadol Anshe Ungarn Synagogue at 242 East 7th Street, which LPC deemed an increasingly-rare symbol of the Jewish immigrant experience on the Lower East Side. The sophisticated, ornate facades of the synagogue reflect the character of a congregation of simple means with dignified aspirations.
Prominent synagogue members question the transparency of negotiations with Joshua Kushner & the Kushner Companies, asking the Attorney General to investigate.
Freda Fried, a synagogue member, has said: "My father, of blessed memory, grew up on this block and was part of this synagogue for 50 years. He led an effort to prevent sale of the synagogue in the 1960s and helped its revitalization before it fell upon harder times in the 70s and 80s. My mom also served as a member and board member until she passed away.”
“As my children and nephews who occasionally pray here tell me, there is always a minyan and the people who come are dedicated to the shul and want to join but have been told they are not welcome. Who ever heard of a synagogue not wanting people to join? My children and nephews have been turned down too. They were lifelong members through their families and the synagogue turns them down now.”
“Aside from keeping out the people who pray here and others who are interested in becoming members, the Board held a meeting on the Monday morning after July 4th weekend at 10 am; not exactly a time to encourage attendance. It provided little information about the sale in its mailing so members could not conduct due diligence or even consider giving a proxy to anyone else. If there was a real process and search for a development partner, little or no information was provided about any other choices."
Dr. Gerard Wolfe, the retired NYU art historian credited with “rediscovery” of the now-landmarked Eldridge Street Synagogue, recently said that the Mezeritz Synagogue is “a jewel. It is an unusual example a neoclassic style synagogue with an interesting façade of beautiful details, and an unusual interior with a two-story high Victorian gothic style arc. That it has managed to survive is a testament to the energy of its rabbi and the devotion of its congregation. It is an irreplaceable asset to its congregation, New York and the world. Its demolition would be an irretrievable, unforgivable loss.”
Andrew Berman, Executive Director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, said "Synagogues like this once dotted the entire Lower East Side, serving what was once perhaps the most vibrant and important Jewish community in the world. This tenement synagogue embodies the aspirations of a generation of poor immigrants who came to New York and the Lower East Side to begin a new life in a new world, and went on to transform our city and our country. To lose this piece of our city's history would be a terrible shame.”
Mezeritz Synagogue Members, Elected Officials, Preservation & Community Groups, and Historians Opposing Destruction of Meseritz Synagogue
Willie Rapfogel - Congregant
Frieda Fried – Congregant
Jonah Lichter - Congregant
City Councilmember Rosie Mendez, Manhattan District 2
Lower East Side Conservancy - Laurie Tobias Cohen, Executive Director
United Jewish Council of the East Side - Joel Kaplan, Executive Director
Justin Ferate, architectural historian, founder Tours of NY
Elissa Sampson - community historian
Joyce Meldelsohn – historian
Dr. Samuel Gruber - International Survey of Jewish Monuments
Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation - Andrew Berman, Executive Director
Historic Districts Council – Simeon Bankoff, Executive Director
CityLore - Marci Reaven, Managing Director
East Village Community Coalition - Kate Spaulding, Managing Director
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from the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation
August 13, 2008
Background: The Adas Yisroel Anshe Mezritch Synagogue, or Congregation Mezritch Synagogue, was founded in 1888 on the Lower East Side, and constructed its current temple at 415 East 6th Street in 1910. The handsome neo-classical building (which has an even more impressive interior) was one of the Lower East Side's many "tenement synagogues," so named because they filled narrow lots sandwiched between tenements and served the poor immigrants who populated the surrounding buildings. While a few such tenement synagogue buildings remain in the East Village, including the former Beth Hamedrash Hagadol Anshe Ungarn Synagogue at 242 East 7th Street which was recently landmarked by the City, Congregation Mezritch Synagogue appears to be the sole remaining operating tenement synagogue in the East Village, and thus is an important link to what was once perhaps the most significant Jewish community in America. For more information about the building and its history, CLICK HERE.Plans have recently been announced to demolish the building, and replace it with a six story apartment building with a new synagogue in the base; several of the synagogue's congregants have called that arrangement into question. GVSHP, EVCC, Councilmember Rosie Mendez, the Lower East Side Conservancy, the United Jewish Council of the East Side, and others will hold tommorow's press conference to appeal to the City and to the leaders of the congregation to save this vitally important structure.