As we walked along Crosby Street in Soho, we passed a facade that caught our attention.
The striped glass window was intriguing.
Another clothing store? A bar?
Then the words: “Soho Synagogue”.
What? A shul (synagogue), here in the heart of Soho?
We pushed the doors, but they were locked. Pity.
We moved on.
As we headed uptown, a snappily dressed young man walked towards us, clutching a leather bound iPad case.
“Hey, you guys wanna have a look . . ?”
“Yes, but how do we get in?”
“With me. I’m the Rabbi . . .”
We walked in through the glass doors, but not even the catchy facade could have prepared us for the interior. It felt like we’d stepped into a sleek hotel lobby. The entrance, mainly white and light-filled is defined by the recessed “branches” which are carved into the ceiling and which lead you to the primary prayer space, down a flight of open stairs. This area is far moodier and has the feel of an industrial New York loft with bare brick walls, concrete floor and high ceiling. Rather well suited to a place of prayer and reflection I think! The seating is simple and architectural and offset by 2 blue Capellini Peacock Chairs which frame either side of the ark. The ark is made from 2 moving metal circles, which, when pulled apart (each is a fabric triangle forming a Magen David – Star of David), reveal the fabric clad Torah scrolls (in a 3rd circle), bearing the outline of the World Trade Towers. My favourite element is the oversized, hand-painted Menorah (Judaic candelabra) on the wall which has gold painted “lights”. Bold, effective and budget!
The Soho Synagogue is a brand new community synagogue, founded by Rabbi Dovi Scheiner and his wife Esty. They synagogue seeks to fulfill a simple mission – to bring local, Jewish (mostly lapsed) residents back to synagogue. But a shul that feels and looks like the chic interior of a boutique hotel. Scheiner knows his target audience and so far his strategy seems to be working. The shul has created a huge buzz and is certainly drawing the crowds, who love not only the environment (and the scene), but Rabbi Dovi’s leadership and insight.
Typically, I would have a load of descriptive photographs but I simply ran out of time to do the space justice. Please have a look here to see more of the interiors, designed by the hugely talented architect Dror Benshetrit.
One of my favourite finds of the trip and definitely a synagogue I’ll be returning to!