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The Insider's Connection

Matthew Broderick

Norfolk Building Transformation: Synagogue to Art Foundation

How do buildings reflect changing times? What saves an abandoned building from demolition in a rapidly-gentrifying city? Was it sacrilege or a saving grace to turn the oldest standing synagogue in New York City into an exclusive event space? The building at 172 Norfolk Street was built in 1849, commissioned by Jewish organization Anshe Chesed (“People of Kindness”). The congregation hired Alexander Saeltzer to design it (Saelter also designed the Public Theater and the Academy of Music on Astor Place) and aesthetic was the priority as they designed their synagogue.  Many members of the congregation were immigrants, or children of immigrants. Anshe Chesed Synagogue, or “Norfolk Street Congregation,” was the first German-Jewish synagogue in New York, and soon Polish and Dutch Jews joined the community. Congregation members were coming from countries where synagogues had to be hidden and inconspicuous. In…

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October 8, 2019

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