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Our Shabbat Dinner at Punch & Judy

The Chasam Sopher Synagogue
Chava Gottlieb

For the last 150 plus years, Clinton Street has been home to the Chasam Sopher Synagogue. The Synagogue has been there for wave of immigrants from around the Jewish world who made the Lower East side their first home. As the neighborhood changed, and many Jews moved to the suburbs, the synagogue refused to abandon ship and remained the stabilizing force for the Jews who remained in its vicinity.

Over the last few years, the neighborhood has undergone a gentrification which has seen Old tenements undergo complete restoration, together with new luxury condos filling the area. Clubs and bars consistently draw many people to enjoy the area nightlife. Many new residents are young professionals who trace their roots back to the Old Lower East Side or just enjoy “city life.”

Within the past three years, the Chasam Sopher Synagogue has undergone a multi-million dollar renovation making it a neighborhood showpiece in the newly up and coming area. The Shule at 8 Clinton Street has been restored to its previous glory in addition to adding on a beautiful garden.

How are these 2 seemingly opposite cultures going to co-exist on the block of Clinton Street between Stanton and Houston? Rabbi Azriel Siff of the Chasam Sopher Synagogue and Mat Wagman, the proprietor of Punch and Judy’s Bar decided to join forces for an experiment.. Punch and Judy would close Friday night November 17 for a few hours, bring in a Glatt Kosher caterer and host a Friday night Shabbat dinner in the bar complete with only kosher wine and drinks, all at the bars expense.

The evening, which was by advance reservations, brought out a diverse crowd of over 60 very enthusiastic participants (many more people were turned away due to space constraints). The majority of participants were in their 20’s and 30’s, some newly married, many still single, almost all local neighborhood residents. The Shabbat spirit, songs and good cheer filled the club. As one participant stated “I’ve been to a bar many times on Friday night, but never felt so spiritually uplifted before.” All those present agreed that it was a most enjoyable and inspiring evening, and are eagerly looking forward to our next event.

As a new era for the Jewish community downtown dawns, it is the vision of Chasam Sopher’s Rabbi, Azriel Siff, to provide programming to our new neighbors with broad appeal, in the hope of giving people an opportunity to connect to their Jewish heritage in a way that will bring Jewish values and identity into their lives.


Anonymous Menachem said...

Ma'arat Ayin anyone?

Sigh. Why do I even bother.

11/27/2006 2:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow Menachem, are you a rabbi or something? Because it seems to me that you like to criticize things that other rabbis have no problem with. Rabbi Siff and his father are respected rabbis on the Lower East Side. I would have thought that anything they do is great by you, since they're not a "hippie shul" like Stanton Street.

11/27/2006 2:28 PM  
Anonymous Menachem said...

I'm sure he's a very nice man but how does this relate to my point?

11/27/2006 4:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

because unless you are the rabbi of the synagogue or another rabbi of much greater stature, you have no right to decide that this synagogue or that one is deciding halacha. every synagogue has a mara d'asra, who is responsible for making halachic decisions for the synagogue. Chasam Sopher's mara d'asra is Rabbi Siff, and if there is a question for which he needs guidance he would consult his father or Rabbi David Feinstein. For you to imply that you know the halacha of mar'is ha'ayin better than any of those is, quite frankly, a violation of kavod haTorah, as well as basic respect. if you have a problem with the halachic positions of a synagogue rabbi (Chasam Sopher, Stanton Street, or otherwise), the correct thing to do would be to contact the rabbi directly and ask what his basis for permitting x or y practice is. Publicly accusing him of violating halacha is despicable, unless you have first contacted him personally.

11/27/2006 4:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ma'aray Ayin? Quite the contrary. Rabbi Siff, who I am really not a fan of, should be commended for doing Karuv and for showing that the joys of the Shabbat are not limited to only those who deem themselves observant. Kol Ha-Kavod

11/27/2006 8:37 PM  

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