Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Defunct Synagogues

Somebody forwarded a request for information on Bronx synagogues, of which I was familiar with one and had a vague memory of a Megillah reading at another.  My father's parents lived in a section known as Highbridge, which had its orthodox shul across the street from their apartment.  I do not know if my father's Bar Mitzvah, circa 1935 in the midst of the Great Depression, took place there or not.  His sister's children all had theirs in this building.  I was last there probably fifty or so years ago.  I remember it as being bigger and more imposing than the photograph suggests.  It had a balcony where the women either worshipped or chatted while the men engaged in shabbos sanctuary proceedings from the main floor.  My grandfather remained modern orthodox, his children went secular but even his grandchildren belonged to a synagogue and arranged for bnai mitzvah of his great grandchildren, so the place across from his apartment probably accomplished its long-term mission.

It is now a church, as are most of the other synagogues in the South Bronx, which I suppose beats being abandoned, the second most common fate.  Sanctity of space is probably transferable.  I lack a good sense of how that congregation depleted, whether similar to the depletion of AKSE slowly over a generation, or more precipitous.  Jews of the South Bronx scattered elsewhere in Metropolitan New York where other congregations grew.  Jews of AKSE migrated from the vicinity of the shul without really scattering but lacked any place else to go in their own neighborhood.  As we begin to observe AKSE's 125th year, predating the establishment of the Bronx shul by more than forty years, there is the looming prospect that its tenure is also finite though for much different reasons than what caused closure of the Bronx congregations.  Whether it fulfilled its mission of perpetuating Judaism elsewhere is also far less certain.

No comments: