Next year in Greenpoint!
Congregants of the fast-growing Orthodox Jewish temple on Noble Street hope to expand into space next door — and, in doing so, maybe restore the neighborhood’s once-thriving Jewish community.
Last month, the Landmarks Preservation Commission granted the congregation’s request to gut the inside of its adjacent building, a long-defunct Reform temple, provided that the historic façade is preserved.
The shul’s rabbi, Maurice Applebaum, envisions establishing an “active thriving space” such as a community center, classrooms, or possibly a permanent residence for the rabbi or a classroom,
“We want to revitalize the location that maximizes space,” said Applebaum. “Right now, we’re in the dream stage. We’re so far away from having that kind of money.”
Both buildings are more than a century old. The 120-year-old Greenpoint shul continues the traditions of its primarily Orthodox congregation, which resulted from the merger of three synagogues in the late 19th century. The neighboring shul, which served a Reform population, actually predates the Greenpoint shul by 24 years, but its interior was destroyed by a fire in 1960.
Talk of revitalizing the neighboring holy space has occurred for decades.
Greenpoint Shul President Naomi Wolfensohn said the congregation had used the basement for a social hall until the city deemed the entire building unsafe. The shul has struggled to negotiate the city’s complex preservation laws, which called for the protection of the front part of the building and an interior balcony.
Demolition of the building’s dilapidated sanctuary could occur early this summer. The congregation hopes to rebuild the sidewalls and add a green roof quickly, though raising money has been difficult.
“Everything is being done on an expedited process,” said Wolfensohn. “We’re not a community of means by any means, and raising money is an obstacle, but it’s so important that we get it done right.”
Biblical analogies between the destruction of the second temple in Jerusalem and the rebuilding of his own shul are not lost on Rabbi Applebaum, whose wife just gave birth to a baby boy. He believes that the demolition will pave the way for a thriving Jewish community in Greenpoint.
“The shul is much more active and has more programming than it has had in many years,” said Applebaum. “We have observant people, not observant, married, some interfaith couples. We want this to be a welcoming place for everyone to explore their Jewish journey. We try to keep as big a tent as possible within an Orthodox framework.”
Councilman Steve Levin (D–Greenpoint) is among the synagogue’s new wave of congregants. Levin has helped the temple through its renovation process this spring.
“I am pleased that the synagogue and Landmarks have come up with a compromise to preserve the façade of the building while making the necessary repairs to maintain the building,” said Levin. “I also want to congratulate Rabbi Applebaum and his wife Rebeccah on the recent birth of their son. Mazel tov!”
Greenpoint Shul [180 Noble St. in Greenpoint, (347) 788-1280]. For info, visit www.greenpointshul.org.