Manhattan Jewish Experience Downtown is a synagogue located in downtown Manhattan. It prays in a traditional Orthodox style with separate seating and a mechitza but isn’t affiliated with the Orthodox movement. While this location is similar to MJE on the Upper West Side, I would say that the rabbi here has a more conservative feel. It draws a younger crowd of mid-twenties to mid-forties and I would consider it an Outreach Minyan. It is a very kind and welcoming community mostly aimed at those who did not grow up with Jewish involvement.
Reviewed by Jewishly
I went to Manhattan Jewish Experience (MJE) Downtown for Rosh Hashanah services. While MJE on the West side had a very Modern Orthodox feel to it, MJE downtown felt conservative. There was a happy hour, then services, then a dinner. I really liked that they made it easy to connect with other people in the community. I think MJE does a very good job of creating an environment that feels open. It’s easy to get involved and meet other people.
When services began, there was a cantor. I was surprised that no one sang. From my observation and in talking to people, there was a mix of unaffiliated, reform, and conservative Jews.
It seemed like half of the room did know the words, but there was no space to sing at all by men or women. The service was traditional, and then the Rabbi gave his sermon/D’var Torah. He talked about how we are all lonely, that making more money is not going to help us feel connected to spirituality. For example, he said buying a condo was not going to help us feel more spiritually connected or close to others.
I think the best way to talk to people is by treating them as adults who have come to pray and explore Judaism and spirituality. We all paid, pre-registered, and came of our own free will. I think lecturing us and telling us how we feel is not going to bring us closer to Judaism.
After services no one said the prayer (Motzi) over the bread, or let us know where we could wash our hands before dinner started. It was odd to me to have such a traditional service but leave out the basic levels of what makes up the tradition on a Jewish holiday or Shabbat.
I think it is time for this synagogue to do some soul searching and find a mission statement that they can align with to draw people toward their services.
131 West 86th Street
New York, NY 10024