It is against this backdrop, that I find myself lost, disoriented, and searching the streets for sanctuary. Places that have maintained an authenticity that link me to the past, and this little architectural gem of a Millinery Center Synagogue on 6th Avenue between 38th and 39th streets is one such place in which I find peace. Built in the 1940's so garment workers could find a minion during the week, when they worked long hard hours and such things mattered, it had its origin many years before when orthodox Jewish garment workers worked here, producing things (in this case hats) and gathered in lofts to pray in the morning and afternoons until they could raise the money to build this lovely building. Most of our clothes are made in China now, and the garment district is mostly gone now, as is the raison de etre for the synagogue, which is largely forgotten and easily overlooked. A footnote and a reminder of a different and forgotten city lovingly cared for by Rabbi Hayim Wahrman (seen below), it has become a refuge for displaced persons such as myself and other easily recognizable wandering lost souls.
Until recently that is...
During the unusually cold winter of 2014, a pipe burst, flooding the place, leaving the floors warped and twisted, the walls stained and sagging, prayer books soaked, and the odor of mold and rot in the air. When I was just there the place was dark and empty but for one sad soul sleeping on a bench. Its future is tenuous in this voracious city where only the strong survive and developers see only opportunity in the misfortune of others.
Monday through Friday you can find Cantor Tuvia Yamnik selling sheets and dry goods in front of the building and talking to anyone and everyone who will listen and who will sing for if you even hint of the need for spiritual uplifting. A joyous man made for the streets on New York.