Temple Shaaray Tefila

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Temple Shaaray Tefila
Basic information
Location 250 East 79th Street, New York, NY 10075
Geographic coordinates 40°46′24″N 73°57′20″W / 40.773357°N 73.955463°W / 40.773357; -73.955463Coordinates: 40°46′24″N 73°57′20″W / 40.773357°N 73.955463°W / 40.773357; -73.955463
Affiliation Reform Judaism
State New York
Status Active
Leadership Deborah A. Hirsch (Interim Senior Rabbi)[1]
Jane Orenstein (Executive Director)
Michael Starr (President)
Website www.shaaraytefilanyc.org

Temple Shaaray Tefila (Hebrew: שערי תפילה – Gates of Prayer)[2] is a traditionally oriented Reform synagogue located at 250 East 79th Street (at the corner of 2nd Avenue) on the Upper East Side in Manhattan, New York City.[3][4]

The synagogue was founded in 1845, and was officially chartered in 1848. It moved to its current location in 1958. It has over 1,500 family member units, and over 800 students combined in its religious school and early childhood programs.[3]


The synagogue was founded in 1845 by 50 primarily English and Dutch Jews who had been members of B'nai Jeshurun, and was officially chartered in 1848.[2][3][5] It was initially an Orthodox synagogue.[3] It slowly turned to Reform Judaism over the years.[3]

By 1862 it had 200 members.[5] In 1865, it opened its religious school.[5] In 1871, it consolidated with the Beth-El congregation, which had been organized in 1853.[5]

In 1879, the congregation voted to shorten and simplify the worship service,and include more English.[3] That was followed by the synagogue allowing men and women to sit together, introducing organ music and a mixed choir.[3] In 1901, it had 240 members.[5] In 1902, the congregation joined the Reform movement's national organization of congregations, the Organization of American Hebrew Congregations.[5] By 1916, it had 500 members.[5]

In 1921, the synagogue joined the American Reform movement – the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (or UAHC, now the URJ).[3]

In 1993, it established a nursery school for children 2.5 to 5 years of age.[6][7] In 1996, the corner of East 79th Street and 2nd Avenue at which it sits was designated Temple Shaaray Tefila Place, in celebration of the congregation's 150th anniversary.[8]


It was initially located on Wooster Street.[3][5] The synagogue relocated in turn to West 34th Street, West 36th Street, West 44th Street (and Sixth Avenue), and 160 West 82nd Street (near Amsterdam Avenue; where it began to be referred to as West End Synagogue).[3][5][9]

In 1958, it finally moved to its current Upper East Side location at 250 East 79th Street and 2nd Avenue, a theater converted at a cost of $1,500,000 ($12,300,000 in current dollar terms).[3][5][10]


The synagogue has over 1,500 family member units, 675 students in its religious school, and over 180 children in its early childhood programs.[3]


At the time of its founding, the synagogue's first rabbi was Samuel Isaacs, one of only two English-speaking Rabbis in the U.S. at the time.[3] He was a firm adherent of Orthodox Judaism, and retired in 1877.[3]

Beginning in 1877, it was led by Rabbi Frederick de Sola Mendes (who also became the first Chairman of the YMHA during his tenure), and from 1920, it was led by Rabbi Nathan Stern.[5][11] His funeral at the synagogue the following year was the largest Jewish funeral of the century.[12]

Rabbi Bernard Bamberger was the rabbi from 1944 until 1971.[3][13] He also served as President of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, as well as the World Union for Progressive Judaism.[3]

Rabbi Philip Schechter was then rabbi at the synagogue for only a short time.[14] In February 1971 the 37-year-old long-haired rabbi was fired, by a vote of 144–135, of synagogue members 35-years-of-age and older.[14] Some members pointed as the reason for his ouster to his having changed the liturgy of the services, caused people to laugh in the synagogue, encouraged bearded youth to come to services without wearing ties, and having worn bell-bottom trousers while visiting a congregant.[14] He was followed by Senior Rabbi Harvey Tattelbaum, who led the synagogue for three decades, until 2001 when he became Rabbi Emeritus.[3]

Rabbi Jonathan Stein became Senior Rabbi in July 2001, and served until June 2014.[3][1] He had previously been Senior Rabbi of both Congregation Beth Israel of San Diego and Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation.[3] He also became President of the Central Conference of American Rabbis in March 2011, for a two-year term.[3] As President, he leads the principal organization of Reform rabbis in the U.S. and Canada.[3] Following Rabbi Stein's retirement in June 2014, the Board of Trustees appointed Rabbi Deborah Hirsch as the Interim Senior Rabbi, while the Board searches for a senior rabbi replacement.[1]

Notable persons[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Rabbi Deborah A. Hirsch, Interim Senior Rabbi
  2. ^ a b "Shaaray Tefila Jubilee – The congregation a vigorous child of B'nai Jeshurun". The New York Times. March 21, 1896. Retrieved January 7, 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u "Our History and Vision". Shaaraytefilanyc.org. Retrieved January 7, 2013. 
  4. ^ "Temple Shaaray Tefila – New York City". Shaaraytefilanyc.org. November 10, 1934. Retrieved January 7, 2013. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Rabbi Kerry M Olitzky, Marc Lee Raphael (1996). The American Synagogue: A Historical Dictionary and Sourcebook. Greenwood Publishing Group. Retrieved January 7, 2013. 
  6. ^ Victoria Goldman (2012). The Manhattan Directory of Private Nursery Schools, 7th Edition. Soho Press. Retrieved January 7, 2013. 
  7. ^ "Temple Shaaray Tefila Nursery School". New York Magazine. October 13, 1969. Retrieved January 7, 2013. 
  8. ^ Sanna Feirstein (2001). Naming New York: Manhattan Places and How They Got Their Names. NYU Press. Retrieved January 7, 2013. 
  9. ^ "Synagogue rededicated". The New York Times. December 18, 1937. Retrieved January 7, 2013. 
  10. ^ "Shaaray Tefila to open temple". The New York Times. September 19, 1959. Retrieved January 7, 2013. 
  11. ^ David Kaufman (1999). Shul With a Pool: The "Synagogue-Center" in American Jewish History. UPNE. Retrieved January 7, 2013. 
  12. ^ Robert P. Swierenga (1994). The Forerunners: Dutch Jewry in the North American Diaspora. Wayne State University Press. Retrieved January 7, 2013. 
  13. ^ Leonard S. Kravitz, Rabbi Kerry M Olitzky (1993). Pirke Avot: A Modern Commentary on Jewish Ethics. URJ Books and Music. Retrieved January 7, 2013. 
  14. ^ a b c "Long-haired N.Y. Rabbi Sees Exodus of Young People to New Temple," St. Joseph Gazette, February 18, 1971, Retrieved January 7, 2013.
  15. ^ Phillips, Mccandlish (June 24, 1965). "700 Attend Baruch Funeral at Family Synagogue – Family Joined by Dignitaries at 15-Minute Rites Here for Financier". The New York Times. Retrieved January 7, 2013. 
  16. ^ Lipman, Steve (Aug 22, 2008). "Yuman Fong". The Jewish Week. Retrieved January 7, 2013. 
  17. ^ Michael K. Bohn (2004). The Achille Lauro Hijacking. Potomac Books, Inc. Retrieved January 7, 2013. 
  18. ^ Steve Swayne (2011). Orpheus in Manhattan: William Schuman and the Shaping of America's Musical Life. Oxford University Press. Retrieved January 7, 2013. 

External links[edit]