Soho has a shul.
After four years of wandering in the desert of New York real estate, a 32-year-old rabbi who employs a modern aesthetic to attract the neighborhood’s hip, and often lapsed, Jewish set has finally found a semi-permanent home in the five-story, red-brick building at 43 Crosby Street.
Rabbi Dovi Scheiner signed the 12-year lease on Sept. 15—nearly eight years to the day after 9/11, which was also, in a rather unfortunate happenstance, his wedding day.
“The juxtaposition of that tragedy and our happiest day led us to Lower Manhattan with a sense of purpose and a feeling we could contribute something to the rebuilding,” said the good rebbe, a Wall Street resident, son of a Borough Park rabbi and brother of rabbis in Boulder, Palm Beach and Sheepshead Bay.
Only problem was, when the rabbi got to Lower Manhattan, he found “a great lack of Jewish infrastructure on the lower west side of the city, in Battery Park, Tribeca, Soho.” Indeed, the rabbi says his Soho Synagogue, which has been wandering from one temporary home to another since its 2005 inception, is the neighborhood’s only shul.
And what a shul it is. Rabbi Scheiner and wife Esty’s house of worship is self-consciously, unabashedly hip.
Hence the synagogue’s Web site—where visitors are treated to the vocal stylings of “Jerusalem,” by Hasidic reggae artist Matisyahu, someone the rabbi described as a “friend of the community”; quotations about the synagogue from aspirational publications like New York magazine and The New York Times; and photos of attractive men and women drinking wine and kibitzing.
Hence the synagogue’s choice of architect: an Israeli named Dror Benshetrit, a designer whom The Times describes as the creator of “elegant objects that flip, flop or fold into many forms.” Mr. Benshetrit’s design for the temple calls for one space that can transition into seven different uses: prayer, lecture, lounge, dinner, movie, gallery and family.
Hence the synagogue’s revenue model. It does not charge for membership, something the rabbi dubs “exclusionary.” Rather, it raises money through black-tie annual galas, the most recent of which was held on the Intrepid.
And hence, as one reader astutely pointed out, the synagogue’s online registration form, which requires would-be congregants to check one of the following age-range boxes: “21-26,” “27-32” and “33-38.”
“Fundamentally, we’re very 2010,” Rabbi Scheiner said.
Ariel Cohen, whose eponymous Cohen Group at Prudential Douglas Elliman represented the synagogue in its search for space, said the task was not an easy one.
“It took nine months to structure the entire deal,” Mr. Cohen said. “It was back and forth. It was crazy. It was unbelievably crazy. But we just kept on going.”
Among the obstacles: bringing the place up to code, and getting approval from the landlord, who doesn’t speak English and lives in Japan. The landlord was also represented by Prudential Douglas Elliman, in this case the Dana Commercial Group.
The rabbi’s lease begins Dec. 1, and the synagogue will likely move in the spring. In the meantime, and in keeping with the neighborhood’s aesthetic, the space will be occupied by Gucci.