On Saturday morning, I read the haftorah at my congregation, the East Midwood Jewish Center. The haftorah for Toldot is an interesting reading, a bit lengthy but not too difficult by my standards.

Later that day I was walking around in lower Manhattan with my husband. We are both American history buffs who are especially fascinated by New York's past. I have a special interest in architecture (hence my Lost Synagogues niche) and HD, my husband, is very interested in the War for Independence and the Early Republic years of the United States.

We were ambitious yesterday, making our way from Union Square Park (to see the Abraham Lincoln and Lafayette statues, among other things) and then to glimpse at the New York Marble Cemetery and New York City Marble Cemetery (they are two different entities, but half a block apart in distance). These two burial sites, only to be gazed at behind fences, are the two oldest non-sectarian cemeteries in New York City. President James Monroe was interred in NYC MC for several years but then relocated.

Then we made our way further south and west to the Financial District, going to St. Paul's Chapel. I admit feeling a bit weird going into a church on Saturday but little did I know that there was actually a worthwhile reason for my being in there on a Saturday afternoon.

Most people who wandered inside headed to a photo exhibit of Bishop Desmond Tutu. HD went to look at old paintings on the walls. And I was startled to see, near the front of the sanctuary, what was unmistakably a synagogue's Aron Kodesh, Holy Ark.

I looked at it carefully and was able to figure out what it was: the old wooden Ark from the in-limbo Lower East Side/East Village congregation Anshe Meseritz. What on earth was it doing here? I did know that the building, on East 6th Street between 1st Avenue and Avenue A, had its ritual items removed before the building underwent a radical interior renovation, rendering it into residences. Supposedly the congregation will be moved back into the space, somewhere in that space.... but as they say, I'll believe it when I see it.

Two youngish men also approached the Ark, out of curiosity. I told them I'd figured out what it said on top and one admitted that he couldn't read Hebrew well. But they were drawn to the Jewish item as well. I figured out how to open it, despite a lack of handles on the doors. I gently pushed the right door and the Ark opened up. Inside there were panels explaining the history of Meseritz in Europe and the history of the tenement-sized synagogue building. The two men and I were bug-eyed, peering inside the cabinet.

But then a security guard strode over and told us loudly to close the doors, we weren't allowed to look inside. I began explaining to him that I was the author of books about former synagogues in New York City but the guard waved us away. "You're not allowed to look in there!" he repeated loudly. So we backed away.

This Sunday morning, I phoned St. Paul's Chapel to ask about this but all I got was their messages and answering machine, so I left a message of interest in the Aron Kodesh. Then I looked on the Web and found out... that this Aron Kodesh has been kept at St. Paul's Chapel for over two years, and is in use by a Jewish congregation called Tamid, which meets on Saturdays at St. Paul's. Tablet Magazine and the Wall Street Journal wrote about this circumstance in late September 2014. Well.

You never know what you will find when you walk the streets of New York City. Keep your eyes open, people.

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