Hoboken is an unusual place.
It’s small, it’s dense, it’s intensely urban, it’s got a view of the Hudson and Manhattan that’s jaw-dropping in its vast ever-changing beauty, and it’s got a jaw-clenching parking problem.
It’s often — often correctly — thought of as a city of transients, but it’s got a gorgeous building that’s been in continuous use as a synagogue for more than a century. That synagogue, named United Synagogue of Hoboken for all the Jews and all the streams that have come together in it, now houses a vibrant, diverse Conservative community with a shared ethos of volunteerism. Many of its members are Israeli.
After October 7, many community members wanted to help Israel, and they knew that doing so, that being together, would give them some comfort too.
One way is through music.
About two weeks after the attacks, a local woman named Liz, who prefers not to use her last name, “thought it would be a good idea to have a concert,” Ken Schept, who has lived in Hoboken for 50 years and been an active community leader and volunteer for all those decades, said. “There is a website that helps you find musicians. She was able to find three Israelis, and she put together a lovely concert of classical, Yiddish, and Israeli music.” It was a fundraiser and a community-builder.
Mr. Schept was at that concert with his wife, Susan, and another couple. “We all basically had the same thought at the same time,” he said. “So we all approached Liz and the musicians at the end of the concert. One thing led quickly to another, and the result is the benefit concert for Israeli aid groups that United Synagogue of Hoboken will host on Sunday. (See below.)
Mr. Schept thinks here’s something in the resilience, rootedness, generosity, and inherent on-the-waterfront toughness of United Synagogue that allows it to move so quickly and empowers its members to create ways to connect.
This concert, like the first one, will include classical, Yiddish, and Israeli music, along with some poetry; the shul’s choir, first created by its musically gifted rabbi, Robert Scheinberg, will sing too.
It will benefit from being performed in the shul’s building, Mr. Schept continued. The more-than-a-century-old structure, carefully, knowledgably, and of course lovingly restored less than a decade ago, is modeled after a European synagogue. It’s old, idiosyncratic, and resonates with history. “It’s got a state-of-the-art sound system that we put in when we restored it, but also, when you sit there, you’re surrounded by a really evocative room,” he said. It has hosted many concerts by many well-known musicians; “it’s a really magic place to listen to music.”
There will be food and wine after the concert, and of course, given the reality of our time and place, there will be security as well.
The synagogue has been contributing to a number of Israeli organizations, Rabbi Scheinberg said. Much of it has been volunteer-driven and inherently community-building; they raise funds, offer education, and provide the comfort that comes from community.
It also benefits from its location — far from most other Jewish communities and graced with dramatic vistas and spaces. On October 11, the city hosted Governor Phil Murphy at a candlelit rally as participants mourned the dead and prayed for the hostages.
United Synagogue members, led by Anat Klein, also have joined a program that combines sending a message with creating community and hope.
Every Friday, Ms. Klein said, a group — so far, its members’ ages have ranged from young enough to be in a stroller to 60-something — have met at 9 in the morning and spent the next 18 minutes — 18 is chai, life — walking or running more or less together. Each person wears a red shirt, each moves quietly, and each holds a poster displaying the picture of a Hamas hostage. People can choose whichever photo they want; most pick babies, Ms. Klein said.
“It’s very quiet,” Ms. Klein said. “We’re not protesting. We just basically want to raise awareness.
“Sometimes people will ask us questions, and we stop and spend a few minutes with them. We stop somewhere in the middle and take pictures and videos to send to the families of the hostages, to show them that they’re not forgotten.” Her group’s pictures and videos have the Hudson behind them and the Freedom Tower in the background. The symbolism is hard to miss.
“It’s a global initiative, from California to Japan,” she said. “It’s great to see the number of pictures, and the number of people. It’s the magnitude that’s so amazing.
The group has police protection; that’s something else that Ms. Klein finds moving. “There’s always a police car with us,” she said. “They’re there just to keep us safe.”
On Monday, the New York Times reported that a runner, Yaniv Zaguri, survived the attack on Kibbutz Beeri because he had been too tired by his training for the New York City Marathon last Sunday to run with his friends. They were murdered. He’s alive; he went to the marathon because not to do so would be to let Hamas win, he told the paper.
But before the marathon, he ran in “Run for the Lives,” in memory of the victims.
Back in Hoboken, Ms. Klein’s group also is selling wristbands that carry the names of kidnapped hostages. The response to all of this has been heartwarming, she said.
So a community gains strength from calamity. It’s not worth it, of course, but there’s rarely a choice.
Who: United Synagogue of Hoboken
What: Presents “In Concert for Israel,” featuring Israeli musicians Ella Bukszpan (viola), Leerone Hakami (violin), Shay Slusky (piano), and Tamar Hagiv (cello).
Where: At United Synagogue of Hoboken
When: On Sunday, November 12, at 2 p.m.; doors open at 1:30.
How much: $36 suggested; to go to the Jewish Federation’s Israel Emergency Relief Fund, Magen David Adom, One Family Fund, and Hand in Hand.
Reservations: Are necessary. Go to hobokensynagogue.org, scroll down to Events and Programs, click on it, and scroll down to In Concert for Israel. Bring a government-issued ID and confirmation of the ticket purchase.