New York Shitty Day Ender: Beauty in Plain Sight

December 30, 2009 ·
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.

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