09 December 2011

Bar Mitzvah in a Brooklyn Mosque

Artists Mel Alexenberg and his wife Miriam Benjamin collaborated in creating two artworks for the exhibition
Silent Witnesses:
Migration Stories through Synagogues Transformed, Rebuilt, or Left Behind
at the Holocaust Memorial Center in Detroit in conjunction with the Conference of the Council of American Jewish Museums, February 2012.  Alexenberg's "Bar Mitzvah in a Brooklyn Mosque" and Benjamin's "My Synagogue Came on Aliyah" were presented as a diptych of two digitally printed vertical banners hanging side-by-side. 

Bar Mitzvah in a Brooklyn Mosque
by Mel Alexenberg

I was born in the Brooklyn Jewish Hospital (now Interfaith Hospital), celebrated my bar mitzvah in my Uncle Morris' synagogue at 1089 Coney Island Avenue (now a Pakistani mosque), and was married in the Park Manor Jewish wedding hall on Eastern Parkway (now an African-American Baptist church).

My Uncle Morris Wasserman founded a storefront synagogue in Brooklyn that he named Congregation Beth Abraham for my father. He was the rabbi of the congregation. He lived in the two floors above the shul with his wife Dora (my mother's sister) and their five children. My parents, my sister and I spent all the Jewish holidays in their house. We had only to run down a flight of stairs to participate in the services.

On the Sunday following my being called up to the Torah as a bar mitzvah on Shabbat, we celebrated with family and friends in Uncle Morris's shul as he sang with the accompaniment of a choir. My parents sat with my sister and me in front the bima draped with an American flag.

When my uncle retired, he sold 1089 Coney Island Avenue to a Hasidic group that later sold it to Muslims who redesigned the synagogue to serve as a mosque.

1 comment:


Hello! I am the head of the Media Department at First Baptist Church of Crown Heights in Brooklyn NY. We are housed in the building formerly known as Park Manor. We want to thank you for sharing this beautiful picture depicting your blessed memories from Park Manor. We are currently organizing our history retrospective and wanted to include/pay homage to the previous tenant of our sanctuary. If you have other pictures, we would love to just have the opportunity to look at them. Thank You