Space of the Week: Not Your Father’s Shul

“We pray and we play” is the unofficial motto of Rabbi Dovi and wife Esty Scheiner’s Soho synagogue (, which makes sense when you see their new Crosby Street digs: it looks like an underground nightclub. Founded in 2005, the “post-denominational” synagogue will hold both social gatherings and religious services in a sleek, basement-level sanctuary designed by Dror Benshetrit’s Studio Dror, which has furnished the 1,600-square-foot space with signature pieces like peacock chairs (seen here, flanking the Torah ark), coffee tables that fold up and are hung as art, and circular bookcases that store prayer books alongside wineglasses. The fabric on this Torah ark, a far cry from the boxy, cabinetlike arcs found in most synagogues, was selected by fashion designer and congregant Yigal Azrouël. Photo: Danny Kim

While the synagogue mainly functions as a sanctuary for Sabbath and holiday services, it will soon become a backdrop for social events. Photo: Danny Kim

Located one story below street level, the sanctuary embraces its basement vibe. In addition to track lighting, the space is lit by 14 exposed Edison bulbs. Fixed rows of seating have been discarded in favor of movable furniture, all designed by Studio Dror. Photo: Danny Kim

The design philosophy was predicated, in large part, on what the Scheiners wished to avoid: a stale, stuffy, dated atmosphere, which Dovi and Esty believe turn people away from religion. “Every aspect of our presentation, including our design, is carefully articulated to communicate the profound relevance of Judaism in our modern world,” says the rabbi. Photo: Danny Kim

The peacock chair by Studio Dror features a piece of fabric that has been folded to resemble the bird’s fanned tail. Photo: Danny Kim

Currently sketched onto the brick wall, a menorah will soon be fabricated and powered by oil lamps. Photo: Danny Kim

Things are not always what they appear: When the folding coffee tables aren’t used to hold members’ wineglasses, they double as hanging art. Photo: Danny Kim

A stairway leads members right back to Crosby Street. Photo: Danny Kim

Colored bricks along the wall feature the names of donors. Photo: Danny Kim

The façade of the Soho Synagogue. Photo: Danny Kim

Space of the Week: Not Your Father’s Shul