Small Town Synagogue Woes


Man surmises, God surprises! That’s what I would say to the news that poor Lincoln Square Synagogue must halt construction for now, for lack of funds and lessening demographic prospects for the future (“Lincoln Square Halts Construction On New Shul,” Oct. 22).

There’s something about being just a tad too optimistic, shul-wise, that rings a familiar bell with me.

Since moving to the boondocks of Sullivan County nine years ago, I’ve been attending synagogue in Port Jervis — 70 miles from New York City — an old, not particularly charming, railroad town that once had a thriving Jewish population.

They tell me that all the stores on the main commercial street were once owned by Jews. But no longer.

Our synagogue has a beautiful modern building, smack in the middle of town, the year “1960” engraved on the cornerstone. That’s probably just about the point when the congregation hit its zenith and the decline began. All the young ‘60s whippersnappers went off to college — thanks to the fine livings their parents were able to make in this little upstate town — and never returned. And so, today, those hardworking parents are, sadly, dying off — or moving south — and our large, handsome shul, with its soaring cathedral ceiling, struggles to make a minyan on Shabbos.

But there are few shul-going Jews who have joined us in recent years, lured by the beautiful Delaware River, still largely natural, and incredibly low housing prices less than two hours from New York City, and ever more craft shops and art galleries, hiking, fishing, etc.

I imagine Lincoln Square Synagogue will be fine once the economy recovers.

But for us? “Man surmises, God surprises.” We’re ever hopeful.


Pond Eddy, N.Y.