The shop down the block from the Eldridge Street Synagogue specializes in fish balls, not matzah balls, and the closest house of worship is the Pechau Buddhist temple. But the Lower East Side still reverberates with the energy and concerns of a century ago, when Russian Jewish immigrants built the neighborhood synagogue.
"That's pretty much the nature of a city," says filmmaker Pearl Gluck. "The identity of a space changes, but its history stays. There's always a remnant."
Bathed in light, wrapped in a tallit and kittel, the soul of a middle-aged New York Jew speaks to his earthly body on a Queens side street late one night last week.
“Chaim, Chaim,” calls the soul, flanked by a pair of large menorahs, an ark of Torah scrolls behind him, “good Shabbos. Did you have a good week?”
A plaintive voice — of Chaim himself, who is mentally disabled — is heard answering, “Nobody likes me.”
Don’t despair, answers the soul. “Soon it will all be over.”