Old Norfolk Street Synagogue Has Been Closed for Worship Since 1974 The oldest surviving synagogue building in New York City, and the first Reform synagogue in New York City, will reopen for the High Holidays when NYU’s Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life: Hillel holds Reform/Conservative services for Rosh Hashanah, September 10-12, and Yom Kippur, September 19-20, at the old Norfolk Street Synagogue (Norfolk and East Houston Streets). The services mark the 150th anniversary of the building and the first time in 25 years that the building has been used for High Holiday observances.
Rabbi Andrew Bachman, director of the Bronfman Center at New York University, will lead the services in Hebrew and English. According to Rabbi Bachman: “Our history as Jews, and our unique history as American Jews will be especially relevant as we observe this holiest of Jewish holidays in the oldest synagogue building in the city, in the very cradle of liberal Judaism in America.” The services will also mark the consecration of a new Torah, given to the Bronfman Center for year-round use in study and prayer.
Built in 1849, the Old Norfolk Street Synagogue originally housed the German Jewish Reform congregation, Ansche Chesed (“People of Kindness”). In the early 1900s, the synagogue became home to a new generation of Orthodox Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, and was renamed Anshei Slonim. In 1974, as the Jewish community continued to move from the lower East Side, the building was closed as a place of Jewish worship.
The former synagogue is now the Angel Orensanz Center for the Arts. Purchased in 1986 as the sculptor’s studio, it is a multi-disciplinary arts and events center for sculpture and painting shows, performances, film and photography shoots, weddings, and parties.
Rosh Hashanah observances begin at 7 p.m., Friday evening, September 10, and at 10 a.m., Saturday and Sunday mornings, September 11 and 12. For Yom Kippur, Kol Nidre will begin at 7 pm., Sunday, September 19th and continue on September 20th, from 10 a.m. until sundown.
Sponsored by the Edgar M. Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life: Hillel at New York University, High Holiday services are free to NYU students; limited seating is available to staff, faculty, and the community at $50 for all services. For reservations and information, call 212: 998-4113; tickets must be picked up in person at the Bronfman Center, 7 East 10th Street.