THERE’S NO JEW QUITE LIKE A NEW YORK JEW. That’s neither a matter of ethnocentrism or antisemitism so much as it is fact, and the distinction isn’t merely geographical.
New York City is unquestionably the metropolitan epicenter of Modern Jewry, a long way from the once humble home of generations-old immigrants who came from the “Old World”—as our grandparents tell us—to the one American city almost explicitly associated with the religion, its people, and its culture. Its place as such has been documented extensively in literature and all forms of pop culture—Where to start?—and is commonly the center of Jewishness and Jewish figureheads in the news. For many Jews, a trip to Manhattan is just as much a birthright as one to Israel, as this is very likely the place their ancestry passed through in order to continue having one.
This has also resulted, of course, in an inordinate concentration of Jewish “Big Machers” (Yiddish for ‘a mover/shaker’ or someone who makes things happen). As distinct as New York Jews may be from the rest of the Jewish world, their own pairings are even more so: going to the high holidays at any synagogue is a loaded social affair; at New York City’s Power Synagogues, it’s often as much a spectacle as it is a service, whether said show is on the “bima” or in the pews.
As such, we’ve mapped out who we think are the Power Congregations of New York City, each with their own distinct history, power, scandal, and congregation. It’s by no means perfect, or comprehensive; surely we’ve missed many a minyan or shul well worth considering (not a single one from the Lower East Side made it; Brooklyn only scored one), so we kindly ask that you pardon our chutzpah. Finally, for those who take offense to that, well: it is, after all, Yom Kippur. And we’ll be sure to keep that in mind this evening. As they say: Good yontif!