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Gay-Friendly Synagogue Comes Out of Closet-like Space

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After years secluded from wide public view, located in a courtyard of the Westbeth complex on Bethune Street in the West Village, a gay-friendly synagogue is revealing plans to open a sort of storefront house of worship—a move warranted because of the growing size of its congregation and a desire to be more publicly visible. Only the entrance to the Congregation Beit Simchat Torah synagogue will be on West 30th Street uptown from the West Village, according to the Times.The sanctuary itself will be at the back of the building. With a small balcony, the hall will hold about 290 people. They will face a roughly textured cast-concrete wall that is gently canted outward to capture daylight coming into the building’s rear yard. The ark will occupy a large niche that appears to have been carved out of the wall. Congregation Beit Simchat Torah has been in existence since 1973, and now has approximately 1,100 members who observe its radical traditionalist viewpoint that welcomes LGBT worshippers. One challenge the design firm Architecture Research Office and the synagogue are trying to come to terms with is the installation of a single eight-stall bathroom rather than separate men's and women's rooms, out of deference to transgender sensitivities. That will require a variance from the Dept. of Buildings.
· Synagogue For a Gay Congregation Designed with Acoustics in Mind [NYT]
· Congregation Beit Simchat Torah [cbst.org]