In response to our roundup of NYC church conversions a few weeks ago, Untapped Cities reader Ellen Levitt pointed out that New York has a number of converted or lost synagogues with fascinating stories as well. Levitt is also the driving force behind the project, The Lost Synagogues of New York City. Published as a series of books by borough, Levitt hopes that through highlighting the repurposing of historical buildings, “people will look more carefully wherever they walk, drive or bike.” Today we’re bringing you five ex-shuls that have been prominent in local history.
Angel Orensanz Center (172 Norfolk Street, Lower East Side): Currently serving as an arts center, the oldest synagogue in NYC opened in 1850 as the Ansche Chesed Synagogue. At the time, it was the largest synagogue in the country, and services were conducted in German. After multiple shifts in ownership, the space was abandoned in the 1970s before Angel Orensanz, a Jewish Spanish artist, converted it into a gallery and performance space. The local Reform Shul of New York still holds holiday services here twice a year. Plus, the place has had its fair share of celebrity visits: Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick were married here, composer Philip Glass and Florence + The Machine have hosted concerts.
The Angel Orensanz Center looks phenomenal as an artistic and performance space.