B'nai Jeshurun (Manhattan)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Congregation B'nai Jeshurun Synagogue and Community House
Congregation B'nai Jeshurun, March 2009
B'nai Jeshurun (Manhattan) is located in New York City
B'nai Jeshurun (Manhattan)
B'nai Jeshurun (Manhattan) is located in New York
B'nai Jeshurun (Manhattan)
B'nai Jeshurun (Manhattan) is located in the United States
B'nai Jeshurun (Manhattan)
Location257 W. 88th St. and 270 W. 89th St., New York, New York
Coordinates40°47′24″N 73°58′35″W / 40.79000°N 73.97639°W / 40.79000; -73.97639Coordinates: 40°47′24″N 73°58′35″W / 40.79000°N 73.97639°W / 40.79000; -73.97639
Area0.9 acres (0.36 ha)
ArchitectSchneider, Walter S.; Et al.
Architectural styleLate 19th And Early 20th Century American Movements, Semitic Revival
NRHP reference No.89000474 [1]
Added to NRHPJune 2, 1989
Front door

B'nai Jeshurun is a synagogue in the Upper West Side of Manhattan, New York City.


Founded in 1825, Bnai Jeshurun was the second synagogue founded in New York and the third-oldest Ashkenazi synagogue in the United States.[2]

The synagogue was founded by a coalition of young members of congregation Shearith Israel and immigrants and the descendants of immigrants from the German and Polish lands. It was the stated intention to follow the "German and Polish minhag (rite)."[3] The order of prayers followed that of the Ashkenazi Great Synagogue of London, and the congregation sought the guidance of the British chief Rabbi Solomon Hirschell on matters of ritual. They first held services on Pearl Street, and dedicated their first building on Elm Street in Manhattan in 1829.[2]

The first rabbi, Samuel Myer Isaacs, was appointed in 1839. In 1845, a schism formed in the congregation leadership.[further explanation needed][4] By 1850, the congregation had grown large enough to make it necessary to build a new synagogue. A building on Greene Street[5][6][7] was dedicated on September 25, 1851, and the Jewish newspaper Asmonean described the edifice and its builders as admirable.[6] Its rabbi in the 1850s and 1860s, when it was frequently called "the Greene Street Synagogue", was Morris Jacob Raphall.[8][7][9][10] By 1852, it had started a Hebrew school open to the entire city's Jews, of all varieties, and by 1854 had opened a separate school building a few doors down Greene Street.[11]

B'nai Jeshurun had a cemetery on 32nd Street.[5]

In 1864, the congregation moved yet again, to a new building on 34th Street,[2] the parcel later part of the site of the flagship Macy's store. Driven by the rapid expansion of the city, they moved yet again in the spring of 1885 to Madison Avenue at 65th Street. That building was designed by Rafael Guastavino and Schwarzmann & Buchman. Less than a year later, a fire did extensive damage to the building.[12] Reports rated the damage at $35,000.[13][14] B'nai Jeshurun was temporarily relocated to Congregation Ahawath Chesed on Lexington Avenue, which ironically had a fire of its own within the month, leaving both congregations homeless.[15]

Henry Jacobs was another long-serving rabbi. He had a 17-year tenure, ending in January, 1893.[16][17]

The present building, located at 257 West 88th Street, between Broadway and West End Avenue, was dedicated in 1917. It was designed by Henry B. Herts, a congregant and celebrated theater architect, with Walter S. Schneider.[18] In addition to its place on the National Register of Historic Places, the synagogue was included in the New York City Riverside Drive-West End Historic District created in 1990. The muqarna-studded ceiling was redesigned following its collapse during renovations in the early 1990s and was replaced with a future-invoking space frame back-lit to simulate a nighttime sky [2].

Breakaway congregations[edit]

B'nai Jeshurun's original founders broke from the city's only synagogue, Shearith Israel, in 1825, in order to create an Ashkenazi congregation. Subsequently, B'nai Jeshurun members broke away to form new shuls several times.

In 1828, at a time of rapid growth in the New York Jewish community, a group left B'nai Jeshurun to found Ansche Chesed.[19]

In 1845, Temple Shaaray Tefila was founded by 50 primarily English and Dutch Jews who had been members of B'nai Jeshurun.[20][21]


B'nai Jeshurun took a leading role in founding the Board of Directors of American Israelites in 1859. By 1874, there were divisions within the congregation over remaining strictly orthodox or adopting ideas from the Reform movement,[22] and by 1875, it was in litigation,[2] with the Reformed movement ultimately winning in court.[23][24] The Board of Delegates affiliated with the Reform movement's Union of American Hebrew Congregations in 1878, but in 1884 it left. Two years later, it also supported the founding of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America (JTS) in 1886, a school formed to support Orthodoxy in combating the Reform movement.

In 1870, it worked with the other "conservative" (non-Reform) synagogues of the city to develop a uniform siddur.[25] In 1889, the congregation published its own edition of the prayer book.

When Solomon Schechter used JTS to create a more conservative set of reforms to traditional Judaism, B'nai Jeshurun joined his United Synagogue of America, now the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.

In the 1990s the congregation left the Conservative movement and is now independent.


A spiritual and demographic renaissance began in 1985, with the arrival of Rabbi Marshall Meyer.

A "Stonewall Shabbat Seder" was first held at B’nai Jeshurun in 1995.[26][27]

Notable clergy[edit]


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. March 13, 2009.
  2. ^ a b c d "A Hebrew Controversy (from The New York World)". Memphis Daily Appeal. 1875-07-08. Retrieved 2018-03-27 – via Newspapers.com open access.
  3. ^ Sarna, Jonathan, American Judaism, Yale University Press, 2004, p. 56.
  4. ^ "Public Notice (Congregation B'nai Jeshurun authorized and unauthorized business)". New York Daily Herald. 1845-02-25. Retrieved 2018-03-27 – via Newspapers.com open access.
  5. ^ a b "Affairs in New York City - Petitions Referred". New York Herald. 1852-04-14. Retrieved 2018-03-27 – via Newspapers.com open access.
  6. ^ a b "Congregation (Erection of B'nei Jeshurun building on Green Street)". The Evening Post. 1851-09-22. Retrieved 2018-03-27 – via Newspapers.com open access.
  7. ^ a b "Died - Nathan Sondheim, 41". New York Daily Herlad. 1856-02-04. Retrieved 2018-03-27 – via Newspapers.com open access.
  8. ^ "Consecration of a New Jewish Synagogue". Cincinnati Gazette (via The Wheeling Daily Intelligencer). 1853-09-17. Retrieved 2018-03-27 – via Newspapers.com open access.
  9. ^ "Obituary [including Morris Jacob Raphall]". Brooklyn Eagle. 1868-06-24. Retrieved 2018-03-27 – via Newspapers.com open access.
  10. ^ "Morris Jacob Raphall, LL.D. (obituary from The New York World)". New York World (via The Louisville Daily Courier). 1868-06-30. Retrieved 2018-03-27 – via Newspapers.com open access.
  11. ^ "The B'nai Jeshurun Educational Institute". New York Herald. 1854-03-24. Retrieved 2018-03-27 – via Newspapers.com open access.
  12. ^ "Fire in a New Synagogue - The Congregation B'nai Jeshurun, of New York, Suffers a Severe Loss". Evening Star. 1886-02-06. Retrieved 2018-03-27 – via Newspapers.com open access.
  13. ^ "A Jewish Synagogue Damaged by Fire". The Wilmington Morning Star. 1886-02-07. p. 4. Retrieved 2018-03-27 – via Newspapers.com open access.
  14. ^ "A Temple Burns - Newspapers.com". Newspapers.com. Retrieved 2018-03-27.
  15. ^ "The News of the Morning - Newspapers.com". Newspapers.com. Retrieved 2018-03-27.
  16. ^ "The Religious World - Newspapers.com". Newspapers.com. Retrieved 2018-03-27.
  17. ^ "An Eminent Rabbi Dead, Page 3". The Times. 14 Sep 1893. Retrieved 2018-03-27 – via Newspapers.com open access.
  18. ^ Kathleen LaFrank (March 1989). "National Register of Historic Places Registration: Congregation B'nai Jeshurun Synagogue and Community House". New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Retrieved March 25, 2011. See also: "Accompanying six photos".
  19. ^ [1] Archived November 21, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  20. ^ "Our History and Vision". Shaaraytefilanyc.org. Archived from the original on January 24, 2013. Retrieved January 7, 2013.
  21. ^ Rabbi Kerry M Olitzky, Marc Lee Raphael (1996). The American Synagogue: A Historical Dictionary and Sourcebook. Greenwood Publishing Group. Retrieved January 7, 2013.
  22. ^ "Thirty-Fourth Street Synagogue". New York Herald. 1874-01-25. Retrieved 2018-03-27 – via Newspapers.com open access.
  23. ^ "Church Controversy - Orthodox vs Reformed Hebrews". The Philadelphia Inquirer (from New York Sun). 1875-08-25. Retrieved 2018-03-27 – via Newspapers.com open access.
  24. ^ "Jewish Innovation". The Herald and Mail. 1875-10-01. p. 1, column 7. Retrieved 2020-04-25.
  25. ^ "Israelitish Convention". The New York Times. 1870-05-09. Retrieved 2018-03-27 – via Newspapers.com open access.
  26. ^ Mark Horn. "The Stonewall Seder". Retrieved November 26, 2014.
  27. ^ Guguhj (1999-06-29). "BEHIND THE HEADLINES Gay Jews recount dual struggle on anniversary of Stonewall Riots | Jewish Telegraphic Agency". Jta.org. Retrieved 2015-11-06.


External links[edit]