Sunday at 9 a.m. at the Walnut Street Synagogue members, friends, relatives and people from all walks of life will gather for a celebratory breakfast on the occasion of the synagogue’s 125th anniversary.
Unbelievably enough, the synagogue remains open, despite the fact that the city it serves, once so heavily Jewish, is hardly Jewish at all anymore.
The Walnut Street Synagogue above all was an immigrants place of worship that enjoyed its biggest membership and large crowds during Chelsea’s golden moment under the sun, when the first generation of Jews to settle here were working hard to achieve the American Dream.
It remains an Orthodox Jewish synagogue. Its sanctuary separates women, who sit upstairs from the men, who sit and pray on the floor below.
The Walnut Street synagogue of today, the present structure, that is, looks exactly as it did the day it opened in 1909.
The interior is extraordinary with a breathtaking bema (altar), hand carved out of fine wood with oak benches with the original brass name plates still affixed to them and a painted ceiling with a religious motif unlike anything else in this city.
During the past 30 years, the synagogue has fought and struggled to stay alive and to remain relevant.
It has survived largely because of the charitable work to keep it open performed by Herb Kupersmith. Kupersmith’s mother made her son promise him he would keep the temple open – and he has kept his promise.
Longtime Rabbi Nochum Cywiak is a man of dignity and high values. His leadership of the synagogue is without peer in its modern history.
We wish the Walnut Street synagogue another 125 years in the knowledge that this cherished old religious place represents the very best of the past and maintains as well possibilities for a rich future.