Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Millinery Center Synagogue

Outside of the Millinery Center Synagogue, on 6th Avenue between 38th and 39th Streets, Cantor Tuvia Yamnik stands by a table from which he sells sets of bedsheets, occasionally calling out, "100% Egyptian cotton!"

This unusual practice has been going on since 1998.

Just walking by, I stopped to talk to the cantor, a warm and friendly man. He explained that the synagogue was recently damaged by a flood--not a Biblical flood, but a busted plumbing pipe--and that they're trying to raise money for the repairs.

I made a donation and went inside to look. The floor boards were buckled, the holy books covered in mold and stacked in piles. The place needs help.

The synagogue dates back to 1934 when it was founded by hat makers in what had been a thriving Garment District. The congregration began by gathering in a loft building, then moved to the synagogue when it was completed in 1948. Daytonian in Manhattan recalls, "Here such groups as the Millinery Bowling League, the Millinery Salesman Union, the Millinery Textile Club and retailers convened."

(As an aside, the Millinery Bowling League began forming around 1904 when the Millinery Trade Review put out a call for bowlers in the hat business to come together for friendly competition in the healthful and pleasant pastime:

Did the bowling milliners wear bowler hats when they bowled? But I digress.)

On the walls of the synagogue are large plates covered with the names of deceased congregation members, those old hat folks. The whole place feels like something out of time, another place, another century.

If you have the chance, or if you happen by, stop and say hello. Make a donation or buy a new set of sheets.


Ken Mac said...


JAZ said...

I didn't realize they had suffered water damage inside. Very cool story, and since I've needed new sheets for a while anyway, this gives me a good excuse to finally take care of it today. Thanks for posting this.

Jeremiah Moss said...

Thank you for commenting on this comment-neglected post.

Anonymous said...

Looks like the space has some soaring 20th century architectural lines; very inspiring. Such a cool history. What a strong sense of trade group community, a shame that this is also a vanishing element within the city.

Courtney said...

Great find, and lovely piece you wrote. I had no idea about it. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Truly a small gem of NY architecture never to be duplicated. Its days of peak usefulness probably passed decades ago.

Anonymous said...

There is something sad about such a historic synagogue deteriorating like this for so many years, in a town like NYC, where there are so many wealthy benefactors in a position to provide more timely assistance with desperately needed repairs.

DCG@GMX.com said...

I was there Wednesday...My experience mirrored yours....Spoke with Cantor Tuvia a while, took a few pictures...wished each other well. :)