We’re across the street from a strip club called Cobras advertising something called “The Grind Downtown,” and we’re dancing with the Torah. Through downtown Detroit, a group of 100 or so is parading down the sidewalks of Griswold Street and Grand River Avenue, hoisting the scrolls and chanting Hebrew songs in honor of Simchat Torah. The celebration began a few hours ago, inside the 1960s-era wood-paneled walls of Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue’s sanctuary, where, in between Torah readings, the congregation’s director, 28-year-old Anna Kohn, and its president, 33-year-old Leor Barak, plied worshippers with shots of vodka and whiskey. (Later, perhaps at the request of a weak-stomached congregant, orange juice was gamely added to some of the vodka.)
The last synagogue in Detroit attracts an eclectic crowd, a mix of young and old, hip and staid, black and white. During the service, the young man with the trendy haircut who acts as leader dangles a prayer shawl and calls out from the bima, “Anyone want a tallit? We’ve got a great tallit.” One worshipper, wearing rings on his fingers and a jean jacket, thumbs through a siddur, a kippah precariously perched on his mass of untamed curls. A middle-aged woman clad in black, lips carefully lined, claps as celebrants dance around the Torah. Outside, a 20-something African-American man with dreadlocks and a tallit wrapped around his shoulders blows a shofar. Hebrew songs carry through the still-warm September evening. An African-American boy is raised above the crowd on a folding chair as his mother snaps pictures with her cell phone and points to her other children. “I want them to remember these days for their children,” she says.
Read more at Moment Magazine The Last Synagogue Standing – Moment Magazine.