A Synagogue’s Last Mincha
Staff Writer
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A procession of singing and dancing people, in a celebratory mood, usually escorts Torah scrolls to their new home in the ark of a synagogue or yeshiva.

The procession from the Sixteenth Street Synagogue in Manhattan last week was somber; it ended at the trunk of Richard McBee’s car.

On the last day of the Midtown Orthodox congregation, which was evicted from its longtime site after a long court battle, some 50 worshippers gathered in the pews. (The building’s former owner, the National Council of Young Israel, had moved out in the 1990s, and the officers of the synagogue that met there for 67 years unsuccessfully sued the building’s new owners for the right to remain.) They prayed a final afternoon Mincha service, recited Psalms, removed a few last belongings from the premises and walked four scrolls, wrapped in tallitot, around the corner to the vehicle of McBee, the shul’s president.

McBee, an artist, took down the mezuzah from the shul’s front doorpost and drove the sifrei Torah to a Manhattan synagogue where they will be stored in “a safe place” until his congregation finds a new, permanent venue.

In the meantime, the congregants — those who live in Midtown, and those who work there and drop by during the working day for a minyan — are holding prayer services at a few nearby sites: the Conservative Synagogue of Fifth Avenue, the Chabad Loft at 144 Fifth Ave., and New York University’s Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life.

The Sixteenth Street Synagogue’s final prayer service, which drew more than the usual number of worshippers, had the earmarks of a funeral, McBee says. “People were crying. It was very emotional. All there memories were there.”

When they left, he says, “they looked behind,” at the building, for the last time.

Last Update:

02/04/2013 - 11:47
The Sixteenth Street Synagogue

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As someone who has reviewed the case file of the Sixteenth Synagogue suit, I find your coverage highly biased and verging on disgraceful. Perhaps you should review the originai source documents.

This article and a prior one take an editorial point of view that the synagogue and its members were wronged. A thorough reading of the case file would show that the synagogue had not paid any rent to either the prior owner or the current owner for over a decade. In fact, the synagogue didn't even have a lease to the space. That was held by a Syrian congregation which had not paid any rent for seven years, had a guarantor that also abnegated on his legal obligations to pay rent, and apparently misappropriated over $3 million in funds that the building owner provided to the congregation to handle builiding repairs.

Rather than being victims, both congregations have been legally found (in a civil court) to be the equivalents of criminals. Your coverage provides no moral or ethical clarification of their role in provoking their own eviction. Your coverage paints them as victims rather than as ethically deficient perpetrators.

I believe that more research and a clarification is in order


Harvey Eckstein

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