CB3 Supports Co-Naming Broome Street Block for Former President of Kehila Kedosha Janina

Posted on: February 11th, 2016 at 5:00 am by
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Forever deemed the smelliest block in all of Manhattan, the northwest corner of Broome and Allen Streets is getting a makeover. In name only. Gears are now in motion to bestow a more palatable designation. One that is way more honorable – street co-naming for a former pillar of the community. That’s right, “Hy Genee Way” is on the way.

Who’s that, you ask?

Born and raised in the neighborhood, Hy Genee was a big macher for decades, known as Mr. Lower East Side long before Rev Jen started her popular variety show. Due to a lifetime of service to the community, both as a tailor on Delancey Street and president of Kehila Kedosha Janina, Genee was able to single-handedly keep the synagogue alive for decades.

So, local advocates feel the time is nigh to rename this small stretch of roadway in his honor. Led by congregant Andrew Marcus, the synagogue pitched the Transportation subcommittee of Community Board 3 this week, and the application sailed through without much incident. Unanimous approval. It was one of the more professional applications we’ve seen; they definitely did their homework. Support signatures from residents in the immediate vicinity exceeded the requisite 150, plus endorsements from Lower East Side Jewish Conservancy and the Lower East Side Preservation Initiative.

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Hy Genee with wife Lil and mother Fani, Photo: KKJ

(This corner is also the location of the now-annual Greek Jewish Festival, which had its inaugural outing last spring.)

However, any time these co-namings appear on the CB3 monthly agendas, the panel winces. We’re living in a post-Beastie Boys Square world, after all. Because of that well publicized (nay, embarrassing) ordeal, there was some deeper ridicule regarding Hy’s “community involvement” to ensure DOT wouldn’t dispute.

In the end, it was really the impassioned testimony of museum director Marcia Ikonomopoulos that sold the panel. She reminisced about getting her feet wet in Kehila Kedosha Janina and questioning Genee about keeping the congregation alive. How the former president bled for his birth neighborhood and wanted to educate the world about the congregation, which, at one time, served the hundreds of Greek Jews from Janina (Ioannina) who lived on the block. Through Genee’s service, this obscure community survived the hard times to keep the tradition afloat on the Lower East Side.

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The synagogue in 1939, Photo: KKJ

Hy Genee died in February 2006 at the age of 83.

Kehila Kedosha Janina began in 1907 when families from the Greek town of Janina organized a congregation. The current facility was not erected until 1927, and is the only Romaniote synagogue in the Western Hemisphere. It remains one of the only Jewish congregations in the neighborhood with an active minyan (prayer) on Saturday mornings. The building received landmark status in 2004, and underwent a major renovation two years later.

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