"If the best sacred architecture intimates the presence of a higher power, the G-d of the TriBeCa Synagogue is a luminous and soft-spoken one. Its facade curves like a grand piano soundboard, floating over a small plaza."
-David W. Dunlap, The New York Times
THE HISTORY OF TRIBECA
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.
Rabbi Jonathan Glass
Rabbi Jonathan Wilson Glass was born in Boston and raised in Fairfield, Connecticut. He graduated from Columbia College and then attended the Torah Ohr yeshiva in Jerusalem, which is headed by the famous Rabbi Chaim Pinchas Sheinberg. Three years later, he returned to the U.S. to attend the Mirrer Yeshiva in Flatbush, from which he was ordained. He chose Mirrer because of its heavy European influence and because he was related to the late Rabbi Shraga Moshe Kalmanowitz, its head. Since 1989, he has served as Rabbi at the Tribeca Synagogue (formerly the Civic Center Synagogue), where he established the Hebrew school and adult education programs. He has given invocations for the City Council of the City of New York and has been Rabbi for the Jewish Lawyers' Guild. He and his wife Minky have five children.
"My firm belief is that traditional Judaism can be a vehicle for anyone's Jewish expression. It's just that special care must be taken to allow people to get comfortable in this setting and proceed at their own pace. It is this belief that has guided my development of the Synagogue to become a nexus of Jewish observance ranging from the ultra-liberal, artistic avant-garde of Tribeca and Soho to the ultra-Orthodox of Flatbush-Boro Park.
"I know both worlds so...I can construct bridges between them. So far, the Almighty has granted me success in providing a home for all comers; may God continue to assist my efforts."
— Rabbi Jonathan Glass