Places that Matter

Stanton Street Shul

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Sauerhaft, Mandolin, Rabbi Pollak, Guitar, Sep 06, Elissa Sampson
Sauerhaft, Mandolin, Rabbi Pollak, Guitar, Sep 06, Elissa Sampson
Dave Trotter and Bernie Gwertman, Elissa Sampson
Benny Sauerheat Sunday Morning Davening, Elissa Sampson
Tamuz - Crustacean, Scorpio, Elissa Sampson
Rare tenement shul on the Lower East Side
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By Emma Jacobs

The synagogue at 180 Stanton Street is one of the few tenement shuls still left of the 700 congregations recorded in 1918 serving the Jews of the Lower East Side.

The shul is the first American home of Congregation Bnai Jacob Anshe Brzezan ("Sons of Jacob, People of Brzezan"). Incorporated in 1893, the community of Jewish immigrants from the town of Brzezan in Southeast Galicia, (formerly Austria-Hungary, then Poland, now the Ukraine), created their place of worship from an existing structure on the site in 1913, within a thriving Lower East Side Jewish community. The shul has since changed with the neighborhood, but has struggled to preserve its old country roots.

Jews arriving in New York in the wave of immigration that began in the 1880s often organized in their new cities around hometown associations (called landmanshaftn in Yiddish) made up of immigrants from the same towns and villages in the Old Country. There were thousands of these organizations in New York City. As mutual-aid societies, they offered immigrants a sense of community and roots in their new city as well as more tangible assistance. The 1896 constitution of the Brzezan association assures its members burial money and aid to the dependents of the deceased. Religious activities were also frequently included and sometimes these hometown associations founded places of worship. The word “shul” to describe a synagogue is Yiddish and derives from the German for “school” to emphasize the study that was central to Jewish ritual. The same community from Brzezan that had banded together with their hometown association founded a congregation in the Lower East Side where they could worship together.

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