Where to Daven Shacharit in Midtown Manhattan

daveningThose of us who live in the outer boroughs or suburbs of New York City, and work in Manhattan, we have the choice of doing weekday Shacharit in three places- at home, in the local shul, or at a minyan in Manhattan. Here are the highlights of each:
At your home:
  • Daven at your own speed.
  • Wake up any time you want.
  • Wear whatever you want.
  • Breakfast and the morning news are right in the other room.
  • Saves time- no kaddish or amidah repetition.
  • You can shuckel, jump, beg, as much as you want. It’s just you and HaShem in the room, and no staring congregants.
At your local shul:
  • Services can start as early as 6:15am, so you can forget about watching Conan O’Brien. You need a good night’s sleep.
  • Daven very quickly, in order to make the 7:21 train.
  • Kaddish if you need to say it, shofar during Elul.
  • If you can’t keep up, who cares? Just say amen to the minyan, and you’re counted with them.
At your Manhattan minyan:
  • Daven close to work, so you won’t be late.
  • Networking opportunities with other local professionals
  • You don’t have to see the above people on Shabbat, so don’t fret about not inviting them over, or not being the sponsor of the mevorhim kiddush.
  • Where company presidents and interns share the same pews and siddurim. It’s so utopian.

So here’s my story. I live exactly an hour from Midtown, where I go to school and work. As a BT, I daven kind of slowly, so if you have a problem with this, please stop reading now.

Upon moving into my new neighborhood, I tried the local Young Israel, which prides itself on the speed of its services. I call them “professional Jews,” in contrast to my novice training. This shul would like nothing more than a chasan every week- also known as the “Tachanun Eliminator,” a superhero of sorts.

I got a huge headache trying to keep up. Seriously, I cannot imagine how anyone could complete the Long Tachanun in less than five minutes. Where is their kavanah? If the Long Tachanun and Pesukei D’Zimra are such a bother, why not just skip them and read them later on the train? If it wasn’t for the Torah reading, what’s the point of a shul where the shaliach tzibbur sounds like an auctioneer?
In contrast, my Midtown minyan is a much better fit. It begins at 7:30am, and finishes within 45 minutes. The Garment Center Synagogue on 7th Avenue and W. 40th Street, is a mix of lawyers, accountants, and a few older Jews from the “shmatta business” that gave the shul its name. Here, we share jokes, trade business cards, take turns leading the services. We take our time unwrapping our tefilin. We know that we’re not going to be late to work.
In case this shul is not the right fit for you, try the Millinery Center Synagogue on 6th Avenue at 38th Street. This tiny building is covered with right-wing stickers. Here, you can relive the exciting Gush Katif protests of 2006. This is where I first met David Ha’Ivri during an AFSI lecture some years back.
It’s only 20 feet by 100 fet, surrounded by a towering Marriott highrise on three sides, in technical terms, an architectural holdout. It’s also where Chulent holds its meetings.
Midtown can be a chaotic place, but the shul is an oasis of tranquility, and a perfect place to start the workday. Oh, if you can’t make it to your local shul in the evening, we have minchah and maariv at 5pm. The rabbi here is a true comedian.