Second Life for Endangered Israel Judaica Shop on Essex
The small enclave of Judaica along Essex Street, south of Grand, is pretty much gone. Rabbi Eisenbach, who operated his sofer (scribe) business in the sub-grade space at 23 Essex recently moved to 504 Grand; and Israel Judaica remains on the ropes, but there’s a silver lining to that story.
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For well over a year, the tiny tchotchke shop has been struggling to say afloat. Seemingly the only true allure of the store is its archaic sign – so old school. Indeed, there are rarely people browsing here, but plenty snapping photos of the exterior. It’s a sad sight, seeing the manager, an Iranian native named Esther, waiting for people to spend some cash. Sales have reportedly dropped dramatically, and the owner could no longer make rent. Now one of the last Judaica stores on the Lower East Side is gaining a second chance thanks to a capital injection from a real estate baron.
An Orthodox Jew with deep connections in the city’s real estate community, he arranged financing (including some of his own funds) that gave the store another month of life. And he started to outline a plan that would convert Israel Judaica, which carries a limited stock of decades-old kipot and posters and similar assorted items, into what he calls “the Judaica store of the future,” a savvy enterprise with a high-visibility Internet presence and work-study students from nearby New York University.
Bolla is hell-bent on revitalizing the once-vibrant Jewish community in the neighborhood. The current Jewish population here is estimated to be 30,000, much higher than the 18,000 in the early 1990s.