Would you like to live in a shul? Have a strong desire to be surrounded by stained glass windows with Hebraic designs? Want to reside inside a synagogue even though you are not a rabbi, staff member or custodian?

Well, you have a chance to do so in Manhattan. In the East Village, better known decades ago as part of the Lower East Side, there is a synagogue that is being converted...into both prayer space and residential units. According to a New York Times article dated December 20, "Condos in a Synagogue" promises an atypical renovation of a shul that had been in a limbo.

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This is not the first plan that has been floated for the redo of the once and future Anshe Mezeritch (also spelled Anshei Meseritz, and other variations). Another plan or two were cast aside and now a developer called East River Partners is taking on the tricky job of fixing up this dilapidated older shul as well as creating pricey condominiums.

The shul, over 100 years old, was notable as the last of the "tenement shuls," slim, modest sized synagogues that were quite common in parts of New York City in the late 1800s and early 1900s. This neighborhood had several other examples but all the others closed up. Most of the surviving structures became churches later on, but interestingly some of them were turned into residences, either single family or more typically multiple family dwellings.

I have done extensive research about these synagogues, primarily for my book The Lost Synagogues of Manhattan (Avotaynu, 2013) as well as for the walking tours I conduct in the neighborhood. Thus I know that former ("lost") shuls on East 8th Street, East 7th, East 6th, East 2nd and East 1st are now homes. This in addition to nearby Lower East Side once-upon-a-time shuls on Rivington Street, Forsyth Street and Eldridge Street-- which were fixed up as homes and studios for artists.

And there are former shuls in other parts of New York City that have become homes, in the Rockaways in Queens, on Manhattan's Upper East Side, and elsewhere. There are churches throughout NYC that were de-sanctified and are now homes. But the building featured in this news article, located at 415 East 6th, is unusual among this group. (And there is another former shul down the block, at #431, that is now apartments too.)

Would you want to live in a shul/dwellings building? Would it be an uplifting or intimidating experience for you? Would it make you more likely to attend a morning minyan, or make you feel guilt ridden? Spiritual and realty food for thought! Things to consider, before buying into the building with the siddur.

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