New York Shitty Day Ender: Beauty in Plain Sight

December 30, 2009 by
Filed under: 11222, Greenpoint, Greenpoint Brooklyn, Greenpoint Magic 

Main BuildingNYS

Ever had one of those things you were always meaning to do but somehow never got around to? Today I checked one such item off my list: visiting Greenpoint’s only operating synagogue, Congregation Ahavath Israel. This afternoon I met with its (newish) Rabbi, Maurice Appelbaum, and he took me on the grand tour. Don’t let the outward appearance of this building deceive you: it is absolutely breath-taking. Mr. Appelbaum is no slouch either: he’s an incredibly nice guy! Let’s get started, shall we?

Congregation Ahavath IsraelNYS

First things first: Congregation Ahavath Israel, which is Orthodox, convenes in the building to the right. The building on the left is also a synagogue, but we’ll get to that later.


As the corner stone indicates, this place of worship was founded in 1904 (albeit A.D.).


This is the dedication plaque which graces the foyer. As you will notice one W. G. Miller was the builder. Here are a few items I dug up on Mr. Miller via the Brooklyn Daily Eagle online archives:


Mr. Miller was a very active member of the community…


…and he was a builder of some renown. The details of Mr. Miller’s life might be scant in print, but what he built at 108 Noble is a living testament to his craftsmanship.

View SouthNYS

Facing south.

Nave 2NYS

The nave (please pardon my decidedly goy terminology).

View North 2NYS

Facing north.

Light FixtureNYS

This lovely Art Nouveau light fixture has to be seen to truly be appreciated. While I am on the subject of things profane (or at least matters mundane)…


In my excitement I totally botched this photo. Not only did its Art Deco design appeal to me, but the address for said clockmaker, Bomelstein’s, sounded vaguely familiar: 753 Manhattan Avenue. I did a little Googling and here’s what I found.


Look familiar? If not, go to 733 Manhattan Avenue and see the restored version for yourself. It is one of a precious few clocks which have been land-marked in this city. Why not grab a doughnut from Peter Pan while you’re at it?  But I digress.

Fire BucketsNYS

Back in the days before the New York’s Bravest were what we know now, people took it upon themselves to to have some fire protection on hand.

Fire Buckets2NYS

Hence the multitude of buckets conveniently stored under the pews.

Reform PlaqueNYS

Remember what I wrote about the synagogue next door? Well, here’s my segue. This is the plaque which graced it. It belonged to a Reform congregation which donated the adjacent property, 110 Noble Street, to Ahvath Israel:


Here’s conservancy in Greenpoint:

110 Noble StreetNYS

Abject neglect.

110 Noble ChairsNYS

Not that I blame Mr. Appelbaum for this: I don’t. He became this community’s Rabbi September, 2009.

110 Noble WindowsNYS

The above photograph does not do justice to how lovely these stained glass windows are— and why they should be saved. To close on a decidedly “up” note, something wonderful is going on behind this building…

Backyard 1NYS

a garden to contribute food to Greenpoint’s most needy. See those barrels and pipes? They are the beginning of a drainage and compost system. I have been told by Rabbi Appelbaum some vollies from Rooftop Farms have assisted in this effort. And yes, dear readers, the soil has been tested. It had some lead content but well below what it is considered to be hazardous. Nonetheless, they are taking measures to remediate it.

What’s more, they’re finding some really cool stuff. Pottery shards and shells mostly. I couldn’t help but pick a few while I talked to Maurice.

Shards from the gardenNYS

It’s in my junkwoman/urban anthropologist nature. I cannot help myself.

In conclusion: this is my humble opinion one of the unsung gems in the Garden Spot of the Universe. As with most things in Greenpoint, beauty does not run skin deep: it’s found in the heart. Hence why I feel both these synagogues deserve preserving and why I want to give a big thank-you to Rabbi Appelbaum, for taking the time to give me a tour— he has a lot of heart. And Seth (the cat rescuer and reluctant Greenpoint celebrity) for helping to make this happen. Follows is a slide show of my tour of Greenpoint’s only Shul. Enjoy!

Miss Heather

Photo Credits: The Bomelstein Street clock comes courtesy of

P.S.: Ahavas Israel also offers N.A. meetings every Tuesday night 7:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

108 Noble Street (downstairs)
Brooklyn, NY 11222

For more deets contact Maurice at: rabbi (at) greenpointshul (dot) org.


7 Comments on New York Shitty Day Ender: Beauty in Plain Sight

  1. SpillConspirator on Thu, 31st Dec 2009 12:05 am
  2. I love the stained glass windows. The artwork in our Greenpoint places of worship is amazing.

  3. missheather on Thu, 31st Dec 2009 12:20 am
  4. Our places of worship deserve to be preserved— especially this one (two), which is the only extant synagogue left in Greenpoint. Meeting Mr. Appelbaum, touring his facility and learning about what plans he has (regarding the garden and addiction counseling) were uplifting. Seeing the adjacent property (110 Noble) left to rot (with a conservancy plaque on it) angered me.

  5. d on Thu, 31st Dec 2009 8:38 am
  6. I’ve walked by so many times and always wondered what they looked like inside, thanks for the virtual tour!

  7. Jascha Preuss on Thu, 31st Dec 2009 2:04 pm
  8. Dear Ms. Heather –
    Thank you for the lovely article about our shul! Nice pix too. I like the piece of history about the builder. Please permit me just a few comments:
    1. About the next door building: we’d love to restore it but (a) it’s beyond repair, unfortunately, and (b) we’d have taken it down long ago (after removing the stained glass!) if only we had the funds! We’re busy renovating 110 Noble St., our main building. Making progress though!
    2. Besides a meeting for Narcotics Anonymous (see below), we also offer a bunch of, shall we say, more traditional Jewish services and classes:
    – services on Shabbat mornings at 9, followed by Kiddush (bagels, lox and accoutrements, even the occasional shot of Whiskey)
    – a short service on Friday evenings (Kabbalat Shabbat) to end the week and welcome Shabbat
    – services on all major and most minor Jewish Holidays
    – a beginners’ Hebrew class (level II to start in January): Congratulations to this year’s graduates. Level II will look at shabbat prayers as a way of learning vocabulary, grammar, prefixes and suffixes.
    – Seuda Shlishit: Starting January 2, the rabbi will be hosting seuda shlishit (Saturrday PM meal) that is open to the public. There will be food, singing and a short class. Meets an hour and change before the conclusion of shabbat. The location and other info to come in early January.
    – Talmud Class – continues on Wednesday nights 7:30 – 8:30. Gather around a table, eat some cake and learn some Talmud. The honey cake got good reviews, but perhaps it was a bit dry. Next class we will learn about one of the most fascinating stories found in the Talmud. The classes meet at the rabbi’s house, so please let him know if you would like to attend so he can send you his address. No prior experience necessary.

    If interested, please contact the rabbi at Sign up for email newsletters at

    – Cocaine Anonymous – CA meets at the shul on Tuesdays 7:00 – 8:00. No sign up necessary. CA is non-denominational. As a Jewish community it is crucial that we are a supportive community giving space for people to recover. Please spread the word.

  9. missheather on Thu, 31st Dec 2009 2:40 pm
  10. Hey Jascha, I’m not laying the blame for the state of 110 on you guys! Clearly the building has been neglected for sometime and needs a LOT of work. 🙂

    What I would like to see is someone come forward and donate the money to have it fully restored. Otherwise, thanks for the full rundown and have a happy and healthy 2010!

  11. no no on Thu, 31st Dec 2009 5:20 pm
  12. What a wonderful tour. I don’t mean to sound like Debbie Downer , but sadly this building is probably no longer “serviceable” ; even with all the love and money you could pour into it. Bureaucracy and red tape would likely thwart any plans to even try and save it. Then again, what do I know? Stranger things have happened. Thanks for the story.

  13. rowan on Mon, 11th Jan 2010 12:00 am
  14. lovely windows. and love the idea of the garden. thanks for showing us the inside of Greenpoint’s only synagogue.

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