New York, Nu York: A Brief Road Trip to New England

I have heard that England is in the World Cup and competing for 3rd place. Well, good luck, Brits, but I am not a soccer-football fan. Most of the world may adore this sport but I find it a snore. Hehe.

But I did venture forth to New England for two days this week, and for three reasons. One was work-related; I write occasional pieces for a music magazine, and the editor liked my pitch for a story about Rhode Island. So that was Reason Number One. Reason Two, I have two friends who live in Rhode Island and I had not seen them in quite a while, so I asked them if they would be around and they offered to put me up for the night. Reason Three, I figured I would seek out any Lost Synagogues in the city of Providence and thereabouts.

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I have a Facebook page devoted to The Lost Synagogues of New York City and New Jersey, and I also post photos and information about lost synagogues elsewhere, when I encounter them through travel. In advance of this Rhode Island excursion, I asked people on the page about any leads they had and a few people did. One man in particular knew quite a bit about Providence and suburban Providence former and active shuls.

Day One of my trip was devoted to doing the fieldwork for my journalism assignment, and I was able to complete that. (It proved to be interesting.) And then I met one of my friends for dinner at a kosher vegan Asian restaurant. (It proved to be tasty.) Then we drove back to her condo and my other friend was there as well. We all chatted and played a bit with their two cats, Diamond and Graphite. But we all got to sleep somewhat early, which was fine for me. I had done so much driving that day and faced a lot more the next.

Thus, Day Two was devoted to lost synagogues in the morning. I found the first of four lost synagogues without much trouble. This shul, Shaare Zedek, is empty. Abandoned. It is not completely clear to me why. But for some reason a non-Jewish man in the area has adopted this building, and he takes care of the grounds. He mows the lawn and weeds it. I explained my interest in the building, and he let me inside. Oy, it was some mess, with so much dust, very warped floor boards in the main sanctuary, and a general air of distraught. But there were many stained glass windows in place. I snapped several pictures of these, as well as the exterior of the building. And I noted that the memorial tablet plaques had been removed.

There were three more former synagogues nearby. One is now a church, and it only had but one piece of remaining Judaica, a cornerstone dedication with a name. A third, small former synagogue is now a mosque. The fourth is now a community center and school, and there are plants and produce being grown on the lawns there.

The situation in Providence apparently has similarities to other cities such as New York City: Jews have moved around within the city and left a few shul buildings behind, and then built others elsewhere. The good old demographic shifts explanation. Still, I continue to find it a compelling story and mission, to document these former homes of Jewish worship.

Where should I travel next in my search? 
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