Just in time for Passover, this historic East Village synagogue turned residence has reappeared on the rental market. Known as the 8th Street Shul, there was a long battle to keep the building preserved as a synagogue after it was damaged by a fire in 1982. Ultimately, the building, at 317 East 8th Street, was turned over to real estate interests and converted into a single-family luxury home. It’s been on the rental market before, asking $25,000 a month, and now it’s back at a higher price.
New York City is teeming with breathtaking penthouses–from multi-floored apartments atop soaring skyscrapers to picturesque flats inside landmarked townhouses–but few have the spiritual history of this East Village abode: The 1,600-square-foot triplex was once a local house of worship.
Originally built in 1908, the the Beth Hamedrash Hagadol Anshe Ungarn synagogue was converted into a five-apartment condo in the 1980s. By the time current owners Dominique Camacho and Gary Hirschkron bought the penthouse in 2007, its design was terribly outdated, so they enlisted the team at DUMBO’s Manifold Architecture Studio (MAS) to help bring it into the 21st century.
Mezritch Synagogue © LuciaM via Panoramio
At the turn of the century, the Lower East Side/East Village was home to 75 percent of the 2.5 million Ashkenazi Jews that immigrated to the U.S. They quickly established synagogues, many of which were “tenement synagogues,” aptly named because they were built on the narrow lots between tenements and served the mostly-impoverished people who lived in the surrounding, overcrowded buildings. Only one of these tenement synagogues is still in operation–the Congregation Meseritz Synagogue (or Anshei Meseritz) at 515 East 6th Street.
Narrowly saved from the wrecking ball in 2012, Meseritz is now undergoing a total overhaul. Real estate developer East River Partners is adding three luxury apartments, including an 11-foot-tall penthouse, to the top of the structure. Though the plan was initially contested by some neighbors and local community and preservation groups, the developer is undertaking a multimillion-dollar gut renovation of the ground floor, creating a new home out of which the congregation can worship.
The Anshei Meseritz Temple soon to be turned into condos © LuciaM via Panoramio
New Yorkers know it often takes some divine intervention to land a great apartment. Luckily, with dozens of churches and synagogues now being partially or totally converted into luxury residential buildings, high-end apartment hunters can go straight to the source.
As congregations grapple with changing demographics, shrinking memberships, and costly upkeep of historic buildings, many religious institutions are concluding that it makes better financial sense to sell off a portion of their development rights, relocate to a more affordable site, or even close their doors for good.