Congregation Shearith Israel

The Congregation Shearith Israel (Hebrew: קהילת שארית ישראל, romanizedKehilat She'arit Yisra'el, lit.'Congregation Remnant of Israel'), often called The Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue, is an Orthodox Jewish synagogue located at 2 West 70th Street, at Central Park West, on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in New York City, New York, United States.

Congregation Shearith Israel
Hebrew: קהילת שארית ישראל
Congregation Shearith Israel at Central Park West
AffiliationOrthodox Judaism
RiteNusach Sefard
Ecclesiastical or organizational statusSynagogue
Location2 West 70th Street, Upper West Side, Manhattan, New York City, New York
CountryUnited States
Congregation Shearith Israel is located in Manhattan
Congregation Shearith Israel
Location within Manhattan
Geographic coordinates40°46′29.5″N 73°58′38.3″W / 40.774861°N 73.977306°W / 40.774861; -73.977306
Architect(s)Arnold Brunner
Date established1654 (as a congregation)
Direction of façadeEast

Established in 1654 in New Amsterdam by Jews who arrived from Dutch Brazil, it is the oldest Jewish congregation in the United States.[1] Until 1825, when Jewish immigrants from Germany established a congregation, it was the only Jewish congregation in New York City.

The Orthodox congregation follows the Sephardic rite, and has occupied its current Neoclassical building since 1897.[2]

Founding and synagogue buildings edit

The first group of Spanish and Portuguese Jews were twenty-three refugees from Dutch Brazil, who arrived in New Amsterdam in September 1654. After being initially rebuffed by anti-Semitic Director of New Netherland Peter Stuyvesant, Jews were given official permission to settle in the colony in 1655. This year marks the founding of the Congregation Shearith Israel. Although they were allowed to stay in New Amsterdam, they faced discrimination and were not given permission to worship in a public synagogue for some time (throughout the Dutch period and into the British). The Congregation did, however, make arrangements for a cemetery beginning in 1656.

It was not until 1730 that the Congregation was able to build a synagogue of its own; it was built on Mill Street (now William Street) in lower Manhattan. The Mill Street synagogue was said to have had access to a nearby spring which it used as a mikveh for ritual baths.[3] Before 1730, as noted on a 1695 map of New York, the congregation worshipped in rented quarters on Beaver Street and subsequently on Mill Street. Since 1730 the Congregation has worshipped in five synagogue buildings:

  1. Mill Street, 1730
  2. Mill Street rebuilt and expanded, 1818
  3. 60 Crosby Street, 1834
  4. 19th Street, 1860
  5. West 70th Street, 1897 (present building)

The current building was extensively refurbished in 1921.[4]

Founding major Jewish institutions edit

As the American Reform Judaism made headway in the late 19th century, many rabbis critical of the Reform movement looked for ways to strengthen traditional synagogues. Shearith Israel, and its rabbi, Henry Pereira Mendes, were at the fore of these efforts. Rabbi Mendes cofounded the American Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) in 1886, in order to train traditional rabbis. The school held its first classes at Shearith Israel. In JTS' earliest days, it taught and researched rabbinics similarly as was done in traditional yeshivas, in contrast to the Reform Hebrew Union College.

Twelve years later, in 1896, Mendes was acting president of JTS. He promoted the formation[5] of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America (commonly known as the OU, the Orthodox Union). This synagogue umbrella group provided an alternative to the Reform movement's Union of American Hebrew Congregations.

As JTS grew, it needed better financing and a full-time head. The seminary moved to its own building, and Mendes was replaced by Solomon Schechter. However, Schechter developed a less traditional approach, which became the basis for Conservative Judaism (called Masorti outside North America). Initially there was considerable cooperation between the Orthodox and Conservative groups but, over time, the divide became clearer.

Schechter formed the United Synagogue of America (now the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, or USCJ) to promote synagogue affiliation with his conservative ideology.[6]

Shearith Israel remained aligned with the Orthodox tradition. It eventually repudiated its association with JTS. In a sense, Shearith Israel helped create three of the largest and most significant Jewish religious organizations in the United States: JTS, the OU, and USCJ. Shearith Israel remains a member only of the Orthodox Union.

Clergy edit

Rabbis edit

The following individuals have served as rabbi of Congregation Shearith Israel:

Order Name Term started Term ended Time in office Notes
1 Benjamin Wolf [7]
2 Gershom Mendes Seixas Not ordained: Hazzan of the Congregation and an ardent American patriot; he moved the Congregation to Philadelphia after the British occupied the city during the American Revolutionary War.
3 Moses L. M. Peixotto Not ordained[8]
4 Isaac B. Seixas 1828 1839 10–11 years [8]
5 Jacques Judah Lyons 1839 1877 37–38 years
6 Henry S. Jacobs 1874 1876 2 years
7 Henry Pereira Mendes 1877 1920 42–43 years
8 David de Sola Pool 1907 1919 45–46 years Hired as assistant rabbi in 1907, and left in 1919. A year later, Mendes retired, and the synagogue went through a succession of candidates until he returned in 1921. Herbert Goldstein was announced as rabbi, but did not actually take the pulpit. Reverend Joseph Corcos was appointed interim rabbi.[9][4]
1921 1955
9 Louis B. Gerstein 1956 1988 31–32 years
10 Marc D. Angel 1969 2007 37–38 years
11 Hayyim Angel 1995 2013 17–18 years
12 Meir Soloveichik 2013 incumbent 10–11 years

Parnasim edit

Notable parnasim include Luis Moises Gomez, Israel Baer Kursheedt, and Alvin Deutsch (1997–2001).[10]

Hazanim edit

Notable hazanim include Gershom Mendes Seixas (1768–1776 and 1784–1816), Isaac Touro (1780), Jacques Judah Lyons (1839–1877), DanAbraham Lopes Cardozo (1946–1986),[11] Daniel Halfon (1978-1980) and Albert Gabbai (1983–1986).

Prominent members edit

Gallery edit

See also edit

References edit

Citations edit

  1. ^ Marcus, Jacob R. (1951). Early American Jewry: The Jews of New York, New England, and Canada, 1649–1794. Vol. I. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society. pp. 3, 20–23.
  2. ^ "Congregation Shearith Israel: Building Report". International Survey of Jewish Monuments. Archived from the original on February 17, 2007. Retrieved April 3, 2007.
  3. ^ Dyer, Albion Morris (1895). "Points in the First Chapter of New York Jewish History". Publications of the American Jewish Historical Society. American Jewish Historical Society. pp. 54–55.
  4. ^ a b "New York Happenings". The American Israelite. October 6, 1921. pp. P2. Retrieved August 13, 2020 – via  .
  5. ^ "The Orthodox Union Story, chs. 5–6". Archived from the original on August 21, 2011. Retrieved October 15, 2011.
  6. ^ From the Beginning... Archived January 13, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ Phillips, N. Taylor (1897). "The Congregation Shearith Israel An Historical Review". American Jewish Historical Quarterly. American Jewish Historical Society. pp. 126–129.
  8. ^ a b "SEIXAS –". Retrieved August 14, 2020.
  9. ^ "The Rev. Dr. Herbert S. Goldstein has been called the to Spanish and Portuguese Synagog..." The American Israelite. November 24, 1921. pp. P2. Retrieved August 14, 2020 – via  .
  10. ^ "ALVIN DEUTSCH Obituary (1932–2021) New York Times". Retrieved April 12, 2022.
  11. ^ De Sola Pool, David and Tamar (1955). An Old Faith in the New World: Portrait of Shearith Israel, 1654–1954. New York, NY: Columbia University Press. pp. 158–186.
  12. ^ "Footprints Written Work: Shehitot u-vedikot". Footprints. Retrieved March 30, 2022.

Sources edit

External links edit