NEW YORK (JTA) – In the dank basement of a massive storage facility in New Jersey, Richard McBee rummages through piles of chairs, prayer books and dismantled memorial plaques — the remains of his beloved 16th Street Synagogue.
Looking at the displaced items, he said it felt like something had been "wrenched from his heart." The week before, the owner of the building in Manhattan where the 16th Street congregation met for 67 years ordered the congregation to vacate the property. In a solemn parade, McBee and others removed the Torah scrolls from the ark and placed them at nearby synagogues for safekeeping. The rest of the shul’s belongings were transferred to a storage space donated by a congregant in the lower level of a defunct train depot in New Jersey.
McBee hopes to find a new home for his congregation near their old site in Manhattan soon. Until then, the items will remain entombed in the facility on other side of the Hudson River.
JTA’s Gil Shefler and Uri Fintzy report.