Non-Jewish Texas student publishes locations of former synagogues in New York City

“People following this bot get regular reminders that New York City used to be…different,” said Amy Shreeve.

By Josh Plank, World Israel News

Amy Shreeve, a 20-year-old college student in Texas, has created a Twitter account to publish the locations of every Manhattan address that formerly housed a synagogue or Jewish organization, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) reported Wednesday.

Shreeve’s account, “This Used to Be a Synagogue” (@OldShulSpots), tweets daily the name and address of a historic Jewish organization along with the current image from Google Street View.

“I want people to reflect on the space, and to think of the immigrant stories and religion stories that came from there,” said Shreeve, who is not Jewish and has never even been to New York.

“This is honestly weirdly random even for me personally,” she told JTA. “I have no family connections. I’m just a big fan of Jewish history.”

Her interest began when she decided to study Yiddish at the University of Texas at Austin, where she is majoring in rhetoric and history.

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“I needed to take a language class. When I heard that my school in Austin was teaching a language with less than 2 million speakers, I thought it was a rare and unique opportunity to learn a niche language,” Shreeve said.

She read an article by her Yiddish professor, Itzik Gottesman, about how old synagogues in Brooklyn have been repurposed, and she decided to map what she learned for a separate geography course.

On her website, Shreeve calls the project an example of “commemorative geography.”

“Using the data I gathered, I constructed a Twitter Bot using Twitter and Google APIs. This bot posts Google Street View images of the places where synagogues and Jewish organizations used to be located,” she explained.

“People following this bot get regular reminders that New York City used to be…different. Different people lived and gathered there and had a different way of life. This bot encourages people to explore their own cities and wonder ‘What used to be here? Who gathered here?'” Shreeve said.

The project relies on 1,016 entries which were obtained from the public database of the Ackman & Ziff Family Genealogy Institute at the Center for Jewish History in Manhattan.

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Once all the entries are published, Shreeve would like to map other boroughs of New York, especially Brooklyn, and she may even visit the city in person.

“Looking at a map is not the same as walking the streets and seeing that what is currently a movie theater or a parking lot once housed minyans or charity organizations,” she told JTA.