“Who do you pray with every morning?” T asked, wondering who else was there at the 6:30 services I frequent.

“I don’t know,” I reply, “just people.”

“But who? I am curious . . .”

“I don’t know. Just random people like me.”

Today as I arrived at my usual time, between 6:15 and 6:20, I took an extra moment to glance around the room to notice who else was there.

Near the front sit half a dozen or so men, bent over Talmuds. They are there every day, getting their daily dose of divine wisdom. One man leads the group with lucid explanations in his Yiddish-accented English. Whenever I listen, I am impressed by his clarity and how everything sounds so simple when he explains it. Maybe if I can pry myself out of bed an hour earlier, I will join them.

Off in a corner is my doctor. His brown beard with a sprinkling of gray cannot hide his friendly smile. He really is a wonderful doctor. He once saw me at services and noticed that I appeared feverish. That morning he called a number of mutual friends until he got my number, and invited me for a much-needed appointment.

There are two other men at my table. One is a well-off businessman. Across from him is the man who works behind the counter at the kosher bakery. He grew up in the underground Chabad community in the USSR, and speaks in Russian-accented English.

The man leading the prayers today is affectionately known as the “president,” out of recognition of the time and effort that he puts into the synagogue. Maybe he is also the official president of the congregation; I don’t know. When he isn’t leading the prayers, he sits at the table near the door, collecting money for a number of charitable causes and distributing booklets with Torah content to be studied each week.

At the far corner of the room, I spot the new principal of the boys’ school. He and I had a long chat last week about his aspirations for the school. His deep-rooted reverence for tradition and his decidedly forward pedagogical approach are refreshing, and I hope he does well. So far, the children and teachers seem to be impressed, and so am I.

The synagogue also has a number of homeless people, who are affectionately tolerated by a community that has known them for decades. Right now, one of them is reading the prayers aloud in English, in a voice that is a tad too loud for this time of the morning. People glance at each other and grin indulgingly. Soon he goes to help himself to a cup of coffee.

Time passes quickly. The room is already filling with the next shift, those who came to pray at 7:15. They wrap themselves in tallit and tefillin as we remove ours and file out of the homey sanctuary.

Outside, a boisterous man sells muffins and sandwiches. He also dispenses advice, jokes and words of wisdom in Hebrew, Yiddish and English. I buy a jumbo chocolate muffin for two dollars and head to the office.