A Revival of Shtieblach on the UWS?

Vorhand Shul (left), at 303 West 91st St. and Ridniker Shtiebel, at 309 West 89th St., are some of the shtieblach located on the Upper West Side. (Images via Google Street View)

A century ago, shtieblach – Yiddish for “little houses” – provided Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe a social gathering spot and house of worship where they could interact with others from their native regions. Over the years, as those congregants, who mostly came from Orthodox communities, passed away and their children and grandchildren moved on, the number of shtieblach dwindled.

Today, there appears to be a revival of the small synagogues on the Upper West Side, writes Batsheva Neuer in The Forward.

Demographically, the West Side is a hub for young Jewish professionals whose synagogue priorities are largely socializing and camaraderie—at the expense of commitment. The shtiebel fits that niche. Less structured than the large congregations, shtieblach offer a built-in community where everybody knows your name, but long-term expectations are low. The lack of structure also leaves space for millennials, many of whom feel overwhelmed in a larger space and bound to historical structures.

Go to The Forward for more on the return of shtieblach, including why “‘in many ways it’s a boys’ club’” and “not everyone is as enthusiastic about the shtiebel culture.”

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