West Side Story
Wed, 01/15/2014

 If the distinguished “Co-Segan” (gabbai) of Congregation Shearith Israel has a beef with The Jewish Week for failing to characterize his shul as “in-vogue,” why take it out on Lincoln Square Synagogue? (Letter to the Editor, Jan. 10).

Perhaps Mr. Lustig has a special insight into what constitutes an “ungodly [sic] sum of money,” although if memory serves, not too many years ago his Spanish-Portuguese Synagogue was rumored to have poured close to $20 million into refurbishing its own structure.

All of the congregations mentioned in Steve Lipman’s fine article have the good fortune to be located in an area that is home to upwards of 70,000 Jews. Shame on any of them if they can’t find a way to attract and inspire even a tiny percentage of their neighbors with the richness of our shared heritage.

The writer is former president of Lincoln Square Synagogue

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Rather than get into a protracted back-&-forth, I'll comment on Mr. Landowne's points and let what I say stand on its own.

Firstly, "co-Segan" is not "gabbai" (as he states). Those with Hebrew knowledge will quickly intuit that it means "deputy" or "vice", as in "Vice-President" (of the congregation) with no ritual role (to speak of).

Secondly, I was decidedly *not* taking "it out on Lincoln Square Synagogue". My letter was clearly directed towards the writer of the original article and in the process merely repeated facts about Lincoln Square's recent spending. I placed the "[sic]" in my letter to specifically indicate that I was making a bit of a pun ("ungodly", "synagogue", get it?). If Mr. Landowne doesn't see a $50million spend on an original $20-25million budget (the amounts stated in the original article) as deserving of that "ungodly" description, then he's possibly lacking a sense of proportion (or at bare minimum, humor).

For the record, Congregation Shearith Israel did indeed renovate about a decade ago; the cost was less than half what Mr. Landowne's "memory serves" regarding his "rumored" amount. When making a point it's generally wise to stick to facts; if you're stating an opinion, do so with justification.

Lastly, Mr. Landowne makes a good point about the number of Jews of the Upper West Side (as we have approximately the same Jewish population as Cleveland!), and indeed the point of the article (and my letter) is that we are all [fortunately] drawing more people in. May our collective success continue!

-Michael Lustig
Still co-Segan of Congregation Shearith Israel
(though that may be in doubt after this letter!)

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