The Battery Park Synagogue (BPS) was founded in 1986 by residents of the newly created Battery Park City neighborhood and the surrounding lower Manhattan community when a number of families organized services for the High Holidays and then held a post-Yom Kippur Break Fast celebration. The congregation slowly grew over the next three years and in 1989 invited Rabbi Joseph (Yossie) Goldman, who ultimately officiated for 22 years, to officiate for the High Holidays!
BPS has always maintained a community centered philosophy with congregant participation central to its style of religious observance and as the congregation attracted new members, it hosted more Friday night, Shabbat morning and Holiday services, established a Hebrew School and a rented first floor one-bedroom apartment in the newly developed Gateway Plaza apartment complex for its offices/classroom/meeting space. As the congregation became more established, BPS celebrated bar and bat mitzvahs and eventually, to accommodate larger gatherings, the Vista Hotel conference rooms became home for many of our religious services.
By 2000, the congregation had over 150 members, a growing Hebrew School with more than 50 students and had moved High Holidays services to the ballroom at the Downtown Marriot Financial Center Hotel to accommodate the several hundred attendees. A converted two-bedroom apartment in Gateway Plaza became our new permanent home.
Then, 9-11 happened. Most of our membership was displaced from their homes for up to 9 months and many suffered physical and financial loss. Our High Holiday plans were turned upside down. Email and BPS on-line connections became vital in ensuring the physical and emotional safety of our membership during this challenging period. The newly opened Tribeca Grand Hotel offered us space to host High Holiday services. While unable to join us for Rosh Hashana, Rabbi Goldman to secured a flight to New York from Jerusalem and a very emotional High Holiday services was ensured. One of the highlights was a military and police escort to the North Cove Marina, our traditional and continuous Tashlich site even 34 years later where we and a number of emergency services personnel performed this ancient ritual.
As residents slowly returned to Battery Park that fall and during the spring of 2002, we discovered that much of our membership had dispersed to the suburbs and beyond. What had been 5 gan k’tan (pre-K) classes became barely one as many of our youngest family members chose to live elsewhere. Slowly, the BPS and indeed all of the downtown community began to rebuild. With the reopening of the Downtown Marriot Hotel the following year, larger religious services were again held in its conference and ballroom spaces. BPS again became known for its personalized and down-home style of worship.
In 2013 Yossie retired and for two years, BPS hired other rabbis and cantors to officiate at High Holidays. In 2015, on Rabbi Yossie’s recommendation, Rabbi Arnie Bender, was hired to officiate at our High Holiday services and continues to fill that role to today. BPS continues to strive to maintain its role in serving the religious needs of its members.