Frank H. Jump & The Fading Ad Gallery present:
Ellen Levitt's Former Synagogues of Brooklyn
Photographs & Text by Ellen Levitt
I met Ellen Levitt when I first opened the Fading Ad Gallery in June 2004. Levitt's idea of photographing synagogues that have been transformed due to demographic shifts intrigued me. After a year of collaboration, here is her story:
"In the early 1990s I took photographs of a former synagogue near the Sears in Flatbush. Formerly Kesser Torah (Crown of Torah), where my mother and her older sister attended Hebrew School, it became a church. For some years the church retained a few old synagogue symbols, including the corner stone with the founding date, and the name "Kesser Torah" in Hebrew. I went back to reshoot photos there in July 2004 and was saddened to see them gone, painted over, sheered off. A car pulled up and a woman spoke to me; she was the wife of the pastor who led the church. She told me they had gotten rid of the synagogue symbols "years ago," but was vague with details.
Over the years I have searched out former synagogues in Brooklyn-- "ex-shuls"-- to take their photos and seek out what Jewish symbols still peek through. Many of these ex-shuls have become churches. Others became day care centers, community centers, or are just shells. The Jewish population of certain Brooklyn neighborhoods has for the most part vanished (East Flatbush, Brownsville, Bedford-Stuyvesant, etc.) The buildings hang on in different incarnations. The following ex-shuls depicted are in Flatbush and the surrounding areas. I have seen and photographed other ex-shuls in other neighborhoods. I have asked older Jews for tips on such buildings. On a few occasions (particularly in Coney Island) some former shul buildings have had all Jewish references removed."
Ellen Levitt, July 2005
All images © 2005, Ellen Levitt. All rights reserved. Presented and formatted for the Internet by Frank H. Jump