I stumbled upon your “Best of Shul Awards” piece in Googling Bnai Jacob (i.e., the Park Slope Shul), and, seeing that you are an expert shul reviewer, figured I would hit you up for some advice. As a disclaimer, I am not frum, but grew up davening in the Orthodox shul that my father has attended twice each day for over 40 years. Much to the chagrin of my very PC and modern wife, though, who grew up going to a conservative “temple” in the New York metropolitan area and thinks a mechitza is offensive, I still insist upon going to a Modern Orthodox shul (which, quite frankly, moved a heck of a lot closer to a conservative temple than my dad’s shul when they installed the “Kosher microphone” and instituted a policy to allow the women to parade the Torah around their section after Krias HaTorah). Anyway, I digress.
Here’s my dilemma. My wife and I will be visiting her family in Battery Park City on Shabbos Shuva/Tzom Gedalia, which happens to coincide with my mother’s Yahrzeit. Coming from a place (Northwest Baltimore) where there is a shul in almost every habitable structure, finding a synagogue anywhere close that has Maariv services on Saturday has turned out to be a lot more difficult than I expected. I assumed that there must be a shul on every block in that part of the city, what with the Jewish control of the international banking industry.
Since the closest places (the Wall Street Synagoge and the Synagogue for the Arts in Tribeca) do not have Mincha/Maariv minyanim on Shabbos, expanding my search led me to settle upon the West Side Jewish Center near MSG and Penn Station. My mother-in-law suggested, however, that it might be easier to go into Brooklyn, and I turned up the Park Slope Shul in my search (Williamsburg may be closer but I don’t have a shtreimel). I then found your entry calling Park Slope the “Most Out-of-Town Shul in NYC.” I had not heard that term before, but infer from your glossary that it is either a very welcoming place to outsiders, or that it barely qualifies as an Orthodox shul. If it is the latter I am not offended as I fully recogize the hypocrisy in my insistence upon attending Orthodox services while not living up to all of the Torah ideals in my daily life . . . yet.
Any knowledge you or your loyal readers can impart regarding either Park Slope Shul or West Side Jewish Center would be much appreciated. Wherever I choose I will return for Shacharis on Sunday before heading back to Baltimore where I can daven Mincha at my home shul. I am basically looking for a place where they are savvy enough not to ask questions that will cause embarrassment to the inquisitor or myself if I answer truthfully (Question: “So you walked four miles to get here?” Answer: “Well, uh, uh . . . .”), and people will not look askance as I fumble with my tefillin. Essentially, a place that will definitely have a minyan, and that readily suffers heathens who prefer Orthodox davening on their admittedly infequent visits to shul. Thanks for your advice.
NY Shul Seeker