gallin Remembrance of Synagogues Past - The Lost Civilization of the Jewish South Bronx
Synagogue Organized Dedicated
Bronx Jewish Center 1920

Non-Synagogue Type
Tremont Community Council Day Care daycare

819 East 178
at Mapes
Bronx, NY 10460
The building is currently a daycare center.

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Personal Impressions

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I remember walking my grandmother to her shul. One of the founders was her brother whose last name was Wolff.

The Bronx Jewish Center was really Orthodox - women upstairs on the balcony and men downstairs. It was a large establishment with children running in and out during the services.

The rabbi was named Rabbi Charlap.

Your request brought back memories - some loving, some hurtful.

When my brother was Bar Mitzvahed, the women in the balcony threw bags of candy at him.

On the holidays I never went in the synagogue. My parents paid for tickets for my brother but no one paid for tickets for the girls.

During the holidays the teenagers were all dressed up. The girls never went in. We stood outside and picked up boys.

Enclosed is a copy of the 1946 holiday ticket for admission to services at the Bronx Jewish Center. This belonged to my father.

My father never made much money in the 1930s and paying for a ticket was considered an extravagance. My father justified the expense by saying that he never went to operas or the movies. This was his form of entertainment.

When I was four and five (1928 and 1929) my father took me to hear holiday services. I was awed by the enormous size of the synagogue and the high hat and long robes of the cantor. I heard cantor Joseph Rosenblatt and to this day I love cantorial music. Since I didn't take up too much room, I squeezed alongside my father.

When I was about seven, I was too big to share my father's seat and sit with the men. We couldn't afford two tickets so I no longer was able to go. I felt disappointed and hurt, particularly when I heard my father talk about the cantor and the music.

I lived with my grandparents. I remember going to meet my grandfather after Yom Kippur services.

My grandfather prayed twice a day in a small synagogue on 178th Street and Honeywell Avenue. But, on the High Holy days he went to the big shul (Bronx Jewish Center).

I remember sitting next to my grandmother. My brother was the chazan of the Junior Congregation.

The rabbi was Charlap and the teachers were Miss Blumenfeld, Miss Spector and Mr. Biederman. Aside from studying torah, prophets and the Hebrew language, we also celebrated every Jewish holiday with plays, pageants, masquerade balls, recitations and choral speaking. We learned Rashi and studied the torah Ivrit B'Ivrit.

There was an enormous Magen David on top of the building lit up at night by a hundred small light bulbs. This was a landmark that could be seen from quite a distance. I was able to hear Cantor Leibele Waldman davening on the High Holy Days. One year I was told that Hank Greenberg and his father came to daven for the holidays but wouldn't give any autographs. In the small Beis Medresh, a small group of young men and women formed a Young Israel and held separate services on Shabbos and yom tov with volunteer student rabbis.

By 1947 there was a social hall and an in-house caterer. Various youth groups met on Saturday afternoons and evenings. There was quite a bit of matchmaking going on. Girls were not encouraged to attend Hebrew School. I was taught by my father.

I was a student at the Bronx Jewish Center. My teachers were Mr. Biederman, Mrs. Appel and Mrs. Spector. Rabbi Chalap was a fire and brimstone rabbi. On the high holy days we students weren't allowed in the sanctuary unless we had a ticket. We had our own services upstairs. I remember our services always ending earlier on Kol Nidre night and from outside hearing Rabbi Chalap begging, imploring, cajoling his members for bigger and bigger donations. It may be improper to say but I always had the feeling that there was a small boy with an adding machine in the back room adding up the pledges. And when the good rabbi got the amount he wanted and needed, somebody told the rabbi to finish his appeal and get back to praying.

The Bronx Jewish Center architecture was traditional. Women were in a circular balcony and men were downstairs. The Rabbi's name was Charlop (His first name escapes me.). Actually, there were two congregations which makes it different. On the ground floor, the large room was turned over to the Young Israel of Tremont. We held our own services and in every way were an independent entity. Incidentally, we paid no rent which was generous of the host congregation.

Around 1932, the Young Israel Tremont Branch moved to its new quarters on Clinton Avenue. I remember a delicate situation just after we moved to our new building. It was traditional for Rabbi Charlop, on Yom Kippur, to come downstairs and give a sermon to the Young Israel Congregation. The first Yom Kippur after we moved it was touch and go whether he would continue this tradition by coming to our new quarters. His congregation did not want him to come because we were a few blocks away and, in a sense, his competitors. However, Rabbi Chalop showed strength and independence and came. I'll always remember that incident.

I attended the Talmud Torah at the Bronx Jewish Center. My years at the school had many fond memories. The academic standards we high and when we graduated from this Talmud Torah, we continued our studies at Marshaliah Hebrew High School. We entered the school at the third year of studies. Many went on to study at the Jewish Theological Seminary. (a woman's story)