Built in 1913 on a narrow lot on a modest little street on Manhattan’s Lower East Side by Jewish immigrants from the town of Brzezany, the synagogue has managed to outfox both Father Time and Mother Nature by staying afloat.
When the Lower East Side was known as America’s “great ghetto,” synagogues just like it were thick on the ground. Immigrants from the same place in Eastern Europe gathered together under the mantle of geography to socialize, daven and keep one another company. A humble, even rudimentary affair, the landsmanshaft, or hometown society, synagogue made up in warmth — through a familiar dialect, say, or nusach, a prayer style — what it lacked in physical amenities. Eventually, the institution succumbed to the siren call of modernity. Members moved away or simply looked elsewhere for companionship.
But not Anshei Brzezan. Although its membership rolls ultimately included landsleit, or compatriots, from other towns, this synagogue held on.