The Last Row-House Shul in Philly

New Lease on Life for Remnant of Neighborhood's Jewish Past

By Howard Shapiro

Published July 08, 2013, issue of July 12, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 3 of 3)

On the immediate blocks around Shivtei Yeshuron, says Tusman, “it’s a community going through quite a large immigrant flux right now,” particularly from Cambodia and Laos. “It’s interesting to contrast them with the Jewish neighborhood of the early 1900s. Now, they are building their own houses of worship, so it’s interesting to see the same process.”

The white walls and ceiling of Shivtei Yeshuron sport their original old-fashioned tin facades stamped with designs. Rows of small pews line both sides. An ark sits next to the far wall, illuminated by a glass Eternal Light that says “history.” Some prayer books on shelves date to the 1800s.

Up a set of narrow stairs was a second-floor social hall, and removable sections of floor allowed women to see the bimah directly below at services. (Today, women are divided from men by small transparent panels fastened to the benches in front of them in the sanctuary.) The third floor, now looking like a neglected stepchild, was once a kitchen where women would prepare meals, then a room for the rabbi.

During the Hidden City festival, a fabric artist brought in modern versions of sweatshop machinery on the second floor and visitors made pieces of scarves. The festival also screened a film and held a concert series, all Jewish-themed.

Morris Levin, in his 30s, may be the youngest Shivtei Yeshuron member. He lives with his wife and children in South Philadelphia, and now serves on the board. “I knew it was still open so I went down there for a minyan on a Shabbos morning and I was taken by the building,” he says. His reaction that day was “very visceral in a soulful way.”

Levin says that the board already has a list of people from Hidden City who want to help keep the place alive, not all of them Jewish. “You don’t have to be Jewish to appreciate a hole-in-the-wall storefront synagogue,” he says. “That’s just something special.”

Howard Shapiro is theater critic at WHYY in Philadelphia, Broadway critic for The Classical Network and a travel writer.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Kosovo's centuries-old Jewish community is down to a few dozen. In a nation where the population is 90% Muslim, they are proud their past — and wonder why Israel won't recognize their state. http://jd.fo/h4wK0
  • Israelis are taking up the #IceBucketChallenge — with hummus.
  • In WWI, Jews fought for Britain. So why were they treated as outsiders?
  • According to a new poll, 75% of Israeli Jews oppose intermarriage.
  • Will Lubavitcher Rabbi Moshe Wiener be the next Met Council CEO?
  • Angelina Jolie changed everything — but not just for the better:
  • Prime Suspect? Prime Minister.
  • Move over Dr. Ruth — there’s a (not-so) new sassy Jewish sex-therapist in town. Her name is Shirley Zussman — and just turned 100 years old.
  • From kosher wine to Ecstasy, presenting some of our best bootlegs:
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.