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.