Out History | Tribeca Synagogue
What is now the Tribeca Synagogue was founded as the Civic Center Synagogue in 1938.
Jacob J. Rosenblum, special assistant to District Attorney Thomas E. Dewey saw a need to provide a place of prayer for Jewish commuters working in the downtown area. The area’s Jews in the law, civil service and textile industries needed a place where they could come on weekdays to have minyans and say Kaddish, and there was no other synagogue around.
The Synagogue initially held services in a loft space above a store, and was open from Monday to Friday. In 1957 the Synagogue finished construction on its own building for the first time. Located at 80 Duane Street, it was fated to have a short life. A mere three years later it was condemned by eminent domain for the building of Federal Plaza (now the Jacob Javits Federal Office Building).
As a result of the negotiations around the eminent domain process, the Synagogue was given a parcel of land at 49 White Street. Here the current, award-winning building designed by William N. Breger rose, and was completed in 1967. It was initially highly utilized: When Yizkor fell on a weekday, as many as two thousand would attend one of the several services.
As the city sank into bankruptcy in the 1970s, Jews left the civil service and downtown businesses closed. The Synagogue experienced a crisis of mission, and by the 1980′s was feeling financial strains. However, through it all, hundreds of Jewish families were moving into Soho, TriBeCa, and lower Manhattan.
With new people seeking a spiritual home, the Synagogue changed. In 1989 Rabbi Glass arrived, bringing new, full-time leadership. That leadership, combined with the vision of the shul’s administration at that time, led to a transformation. The Synagogue began its metamorphosis from the “Civic Center Synagogue” to the “Synagogue for the Arts.”
The congregation was renamed “Synagogue for the Arts” to reflect the nature of the community in which it now found itself. A conscious effort was made to reach out to the unaffiliated Jews among the area’s new, creative residents. The Gallery was established and became an ongoing facet of the Synagogue’s activity.
The “Synagogue for the Arts” was renamed the “Tribeca Synagogue” in 2013 to better encompass its focus on the neighborhood. In addition to daily, weekly and holiday services, we offer a plaza, sanctuary and social hall for events, as well as a wonderful Hebrew School. We function as a full service synagogue, exceeding the wildest dreams of our founders more than 60 years ago.