List of the oldest synagogues in the United States

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Touro Synagogue, (founded c. 1658) Newport, Rhode Island, 1759 building
Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim Synagogue,(founded 1740s) Charleston, South Carolina, 1840 building
Congregation Shearith Israel, (founded 1655) New York, 1897 building

The designation of the oldest synagogue in the United States requires careful use of definitions, and must be divided into two parts, the oldest in the sense of oldest surviving building, and the oldest in the sense of oldest congregation. Even here, there is the distinction between old synagogue buildings that have been in continuous use as synagogues, and those that have been converted to other purposes, between buildings that have been in continuous use as synagogues and those, such as the Touro, that were shuttered for many decades, and between early established congregations that have been in continuous existence and early congregations that ceased to exist.

Oldest congregations[edit]

Sephardi congregations[edit]

All of the oldest congregations in the new world were founded by Sephardi Jews and followed the Sephardic liturgy.

Congregation Mickve Israel, Savannah, Georgia, 1874 building

Ashkenazi congregations[edit]

Until 1795, all congregations in the United States were Sephardic, although many or even most of the members of these congregations were descended from Eastern European Jews.[3]

Oldest existing buildings[edit]

This list includes only buildings that are still standing. Some are still in use as synagogues, others have been repurposed.

By state[edit]

B'nai Israel, Galveston, Texas (1870)
Temple Beth-El, Pensacola, Florida (1876)
Plum Street Temple, Cincinnati, Ohio (1866)

Alabama[edit]

  • Congregation Sha'arai Shomayim, the oldest congregation in Alabama, was formally organized on January 25, 1844. Their first synagogue was Emanuel Street Synagogue, dedicated on December 27, 1846. The current Springhill Avenue Temple is their fifth location.[6]

Alaska[edit]

  • Congregation Beth Sholom was first organized on September 5, 1958 in Anchorage.[7]

Arkansas[edit]

  • B'nai Israel was founded in Little Rock in 1866.[8][9]

Arizona[edit]

  • Emanu-El dedicated the first synagogue in the Arizona Territory on October 3, 1910 in Tucson. The congregation stopped holding services there in 1949. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places and currently houses the Jewish Heritage Center of the Southwest.[10]

California[edit]

Colorado[edit]

  • Temple Israel, Leadville, Colorado, 1884 building restored as a synagogue and Jewish pioneer museum in 2008. The original congregation dissolved before 1914. The Hebrew Cemetery was established in 1880.

Connecticut[edit]

Delaware[edit]

  • Adas Kodesch Shel Emeth in Wilmington, Delaware is the oldest congregation in the state. It was formed from the merger in 1957 of the Orthodox Adas Kodesch Congregation, which was established in 1885, and the Chesed Shel Emeth Congregation. It is usually referred to simply as Adas Kodesch and is billed as "The First Synagogue in the First State".[14]

District of Columbia[edit]

  • Washington Hebrew Congregation, congregation founded in 1852.
  • Adas Israel, the building, now known as the Lilian and Albert Small Jewish Museum is located at the corner of Third & G Streets, NW. It was built in 1876, after the congregation split from Washington Hebrew Congregation over the issue of organ music during services. Originally located at 6th and G Streets, the dedication was attended by President Ulysses S. Grant.[15]

Florida[edit]

  • Ahavath Chesed in Jacksonville, and Temple Beth-El in Pensacola each has claims to being the oldest Jewish congregation in Florida. The Jacksonville congregation was meeting for prayer by 1867, but appears to have incorporated later than Pensacola which dedicated its first building in 1876, well before Jacksonville's 1882 building.[16]
  • The United Hebrews of Ocala building built in 1888 may be the oldest Florida synagogue building still standing.

Georgia[edit]

Hawaii[edit]

  • Temple Emanu-El dates back to 1938 when 35 Jewish families on Oahu formed the Honolulu Jewish Community. In 1939, in cooperation with the Jewish Welfare Board, a small chapel on Young Street was leased and converted into a Jewish Community Center (JCC), which also served as Honolulu's first permanent synagogue.[17]

Idaho[edit]

  • Ahavath Beth Israel, Boise, Idaho (1896).[5] The synagogue was built for Beth Israel (founded 1895). In the 1980s, the congregation was formed as a merger of Congregation Beth Israel and Ahavath Israel (founded 1912).

Illinois[edit]

  • KAM Isaiah Israel merged several older congregations in Chicago, the oldest of which - Kehillat Anshe Maarav - was founded in 1847.

Indiana[edit]

Iowa[edit]

  • Temple Emanuel of Davenport was formed as B’Nai Israel Congregation on October 21, 1861.[19]
  • B'nai Israel Congregation, Keokuk, Iowa. First permanent Jewish house of worship in Iowa, 1877.[20]

Kentucky[edit]

Kansas[edit]

Louisiana[edit]

Shaare Tefilah building
  • Touro Synagogue in New Orleans, Louisiana is the oldest congregation in the state. Touro Synagogue traces its origins back to Shanarai-Chasset (Congregation Gates of Mercy), which was founded in New Orleans in 1828.[2][22]
  • Shaare Tefilah (Gates of Prayer) in New Orleans, Louisiana is the oldest surviving synagogue building in the state. Architect J. Thiele designed the brick structure to replace an earlier building, but construction was delayed by the Civil War. The cornerstone was laid in 1865 and the synagogue was dedicated in 1867. The building is located at 709 Jackson Avenue in the Lower Garden District. The former synagogue had been converted to use as a storage facility, however it was recently purchased and will be converted to a 12 unit apartment building.[23]

Maine[edit]

Maryland[edit]

Massachusetts[edit]

Michigan[edit]

Minnesota[edit]

Mississippi[edit]

  • B'nai Israel was organized in Natchez in 1843, making it the oldest congregation in Mississippi.[25][26]
  • An historic marker on the corner of South Street and South Main Street in Jackson marks the site of the first synagogue built in the state, Beth Israel, built in 1867. The building was destroyed by fire on July 10, 1874.[27][28]

Missouri[edit]

  • United Hebrew Congregation, 1837, is the oldest congregation in Missouri and the oldest congregation west of the Mississippi River.

Montana[edit]

Temple Emanu-El, Helena, MT

Nebraska[edit]

  • Temple Israel of Omaha, the oldest synagogue in Nebraska (1871).[31]

New Hampshire[edit]

  • Temple Adath Yeshurun of Manchester, founded in 1891, is the oldest synagogue in New Hampshire.
  • Temple Israel, first permanent Jewish house of worship in New Hampshire, Portsmouth, 1910.[32]

New Jersey[edit]

  • Congregation Adas Emuno (New Jersey)'s 1883 building is the oldest surviving synagogue building in New Jersey.
  • Congregation B'nai Jeshurun was founded in 1848. Originally located in Newark, it is currently located in Short Hills, NJ.[33]

New Mexico[edit]

  • Congregation Albert, founded in 1897, is the oldest continuing Jewish organization in New Mexico.
  • Congregation Montefiore, Las Vegas, N.M., first Jewish congregation in N.M. 1884 [34]

New York[edit]

Nevada[edit]

  • Temple Emanu-El, Reno, Nevada, founded in 1922.
  • Temple Beth Sholom, Las Vegas, Nevada, founded in 1931.

North Carolina[edit]

North Dakota[edit]

Ohio[edit]

Oklahoma[edit]

Oregon[edit]

Pennsylvania[edit]

Puerto Rico[edit]

  • Sha'are Zedeck, built in 1952, is the oldest synagogue in Puerto Rico.

Rhode Island[edit]

  • The Touro Synagogue in Newport, founded in 1658, is the oldest Jewish house of worship in North America that is still standing. (1759)

South Carolina[edit]

South Dakota[edit]

  • Mount Zion Congregation, Sioux Falls, possibly the oldest congregation, ca. 1903

Tennessee[edit]

  • The 1882 building of Temple Adas Israel, Brownsville, is thought to be the oldest synagogue building in Tennessee.
  • First permanent Jewish congregation in Tennessee, Children of Israel, 1858.[38]

Texas[edit]

Utah[edit]

Vermont[edit]

Virginia[edit]

Gates of Heaven Synagogue, Madison, Wisconsin (1863)

Washington[edit]

  • The state's first synagogue was Temple Emamu-El (Spokane, September 12, 1892, demolished). The congregation later merged with Keneseth Israel to form the present-day Temple Beth Shalom.[41][42]

West Virginia[edit]

Wisconsin[edit]

Wyoming[edit]

  • Mt. Sinai Congregation, in Cheyenne, Wyoming, the oldest synagogue in Wyoming, built in 1910.[44]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Jonathan Sarna, American Judaism, Yale University Press, 2004, p. 19.
  2. ^ a b c Touro Synagogue, The History of Our Congregation
  3. ^ Jonathan Sarna, American Judaism, Yale University Press, 2004, pp. 18ff, 56ff.
  4. ^ a b [1] Rediscovering Jewish Infrastructure: Update on United States Nineteenth Century Synagogues, Mark Gordon, American Jewish History 84.1 (1996) 20-27
  5. ^ a b Synagogue architecture in America: faith, spirit & identity By Henry Stolzman, Daniel Stolzman [2]
  6. ^ http://www.jewish-american-society-for-historic-preservation.org/completedprgms1/mobilealabama.html
  7. ^ http://www.frozenchosen.org/cbs/aboutus/history/ Congregation Beth Sholom
  8. ^ Jewish Encyclopedia - Arkansas
  9. ^ http://www.jewish-american-society-for-historic-preservation.org/completedprgms1/littlerockarkansas.html
  10. ^ http://www.nmajh.org/exhibitions/postcards/cards/04.htm Jewish Postcards
  11. ^ Sarna, Jonathatn, American Judaism, Yale University Press, 2004, p. 73
  12. ^ [3]
  13. ^ Olitzky, Kerry M.; Raphael, Marc Lee. The American Synagogue: A Historical Dictionary and Sourcebook, Greenwood Press, June 30, 1996, pp. 76–80.
  14. ^ http://www.jewish-american-society-for-historic-preservation.org/completedprgms1/wilmingtondelaware.html
  15. ^ http://www.jhsgw.org/
  16. ^ http://www.jewish-american-society-for-historic-preservation.org/completedprgms1/pensacolaflorida.html
  17. ^ Temple Emanu-El - History
  18. ^ Oldest Synagogue in Indiana Celebrates 100th Anniversary; Special Sermons Scheduled [4]
  19. ^ Temple Emanuel celebrates 150 years
  20. ^ http://www.jewish-american-society-for-historic-preservation.org/completedprgms1/keokukiowa.html
  21. ^ http://www.jewish-american-society-for-historic-preservation.org/completedprgms1/leavenworthkansas.html
  22. ^ http://www.jewish-american-society-for-historic-preservation.org/completedprgms1/neworleansla1.html
  23. ^ Wilson, Samuel and Bernard Lemann. New Orleans Architecture, Volume 1: The Lower Garden District. (New Orleans: Pelican Publishing, 1990): 129. Ponchartrain, Blake. [5] "New Orleans Know-It-All: Where is the oldest synagogue in New Orleans?," Gambit, Feb. 8, 2010.
  24. ^ http://www.jewish-american-society-for-historic-preservation.org/completedprgms1/bangormaine.html
  25. ^ B'Nai Israel to Unveil Historical Marker
  26. ^ http://www.jewish-american-society-for-historic-preservation.org/completedprgms2/natchezmississippi.html
  27. ^ http://www.isjl.org/media/article_dedication.htm
  28. ^ http://www.jewish-american-society-for-historic-preservation.org/completedprgms1/jacksonmississippi.html
  29. ^ [6]
  30. ^ http://www.jewish-american-society-for-historic-preservation.org/completedprgms2/helenamontanaapril2001.html
  31. ^ http://www.jewish-american-society-for-historic-preservation.org/completedprgms2/omahanebraska.html
  32. ^ http://www.jewish-american-society-for-historic-preservation.org/completedprgms2/portsmouthnewhampshire.html
  33. ^ TBJ website http://tbj.org/about-us/temple-history/ accessdate=2011-05-17
  34. ^ http://www.jewish-american-society-for-historic-preservation.org/completedprgms2/lasvegasnm.html
  35. ^ http://books.google.com/books/about/Synagogue_Architecture_in_America.html?id=tfJNHoiMDSoC
  36. ^ a b c http://www.americanjewisharchives.org/aja/FindingAids/TempleEmeth.html
  37. ^ Jewish Synagogues in Oklahoma City
  38. ^ http://www.jewish-american-society-for-historic-preservation.org/completedprgms2/memphistennessee.html
  39. ^ http://www.jewish-american-society-for-historic-preservation.org/completedprgms2/saltlakecityutah.html
  40. ^ http://www.jewish-american-society-for-historic-preservation.org/completedprgms2/richmondva.html
  41. ^ WSJHS (2006), The Jewish Experience in Washington State: A Chronology 1845–2005, Washington State Jewish Historical Society (WSJHS), p. 14–15.
  42. ^ http://www.jewish-american-society-for-historic-preservation.org/completedprgms2/spokanewashington.html
  43. ^ http://www.jewish-american-society-for-historic-preservation.org/completedprgms2/charlestonwva.html
  44. ^ http://www.jewish-american-society-for-historic-preservation.org/completedprgms2/cheyennewyoming.html