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Visiting Syracuse

Ellen Levitt

Posted on July 10, 2020 01:45

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I took a two-day trip to the upstate New York city of Syracuse, and it was not quite like what I expected.

I took a two-day trip to Syracuse, one of the largest cities in New York State and over five hours north of my home in Brooklyn, New York. I'd never been there before. My primary reason for going was to do fieldwork for an article I'm writing for another website (I've freelanced regularly with them nearly four years) and my secondary reason was to see and document former synagogues, an ongoing project of mine. I figured I'd also drive around and see some of the main sights of the city.

But visiting any part of the United States right now is a bit eerie, because of the COVID pandemic and social distancing restrictions. While many Syracuse businesses were open, a lot weren't, nor were museums and other typical touristy things.

Perhaps most important, Syracuse University was not teeming with students. Nearby SUNY (State University of New York) college campuses were also quiet. Thus the city was unusually sleepy. I saw people dining or walking dogs, and the ice cream shop I patronized on Wednesday evening had a small but steady stream of customers. But it wasn't "city-like" with lots of people walking around, biking about, and so on.

I did get to conduct my fieldwork (those businesses were open, albeit with restricted hours) and I was able to take photos of four former synagogues in the city. Three are just minutes away from each other, and one is actually now used as the Skyler Hotel. And I stayed the night in that hotel. It had been built as Temple Adath Yeshurun several decades ago. When I explained to the front desk attendant that I was staying there partly for that reason, she gave me a free upgrade to a bigger room that actually had authentic details and moldings from the synagogue; the room had one side that was arched, with unusual windows. It was very interesting, and so quiet.

I drove around to see outdoor art installations, murals and large-scale sculptures, historic monuments and memorials. I admired the variety of architectural styles in different neighborhoods. I shopped in the Sound Garden, a funky music store near MOST (Museum of Science and Technology, housed in a beautiful old building). I ate good pizza at Mario & Salvo's. I saw much of the Syracuse University campus.

In particular, I admired the Clinton Square area with its reflecting pool (which some children splashed in) and several beautiful old buildings surrounding it. 

But it was still strange to be in a major urban area and see only a modest amount of people. It seemed way too laid back. I realize these are unusual times, and I was grateful that most people donned face masks and kept their distances. But it was more than a bit melancholy, and I felt like I should have seen and experienced this city during more typical times.

Of course, I can do so in the future. But nothing will ever be quite the same, perhaps. Who knows?

Ellen Levitt

Posted on July 10, 2020 01:45

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Source: Al Jazeera

Travel restrictions and social distancing measures have been reinstated.

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