Growing up, I considered Sephardic rituals and customs to be exotic, maybe even odd, if I thought about them at all. I knew, for example, that eating rice on Passover was allowed in Sephardic homes, a strict prohibition in mine and everyone else’s I knew, as Ashkenazim. And I considered their prayerbook nusach, or style, annoying since it was different from what I knew, and therefore hard for me to follow.
With all due respect to the Eldridge Street Synagogue, whose magnificent stained glass window by Kiki Smith is all the talk of town, the shul gets too much attention. It is one of the oldest surviving synagogues in Manhattan, dating to 1887, but its congregation is decidedly not.