Congregation Mikveh Israel
|Kahal Kadosh Mikveh Israel|
Mikveh Israel, 44 N 4th Street, Philadelphia (April 21, 2013)
|Rite||Spanish & Portuguese|
|Location||44 North Fourth Street,|
The Congregation Mikveh Israel, (Hebrew: קהל קדוש מקוה ישראל), "Holy Community of the Hope of Israel", is a synagogue founded in the 1740s in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Established by Spanish and Portuguese Jews, the congregation practices according to the Spanish and Portuguese rite. The congregation conducts daily, Sabbath, and Jewish holy day services. The congregation is also responsible for Mikveh Israel Cemetery, the second oldest surviving Jewish cemetery in the United States.
The congregation traces its history to 1740 when a number of Jews organized themselves for services meeting in private homes. The congregation came to acquire a Torah scroll in 1761 and met in a private residence on Sterling Alley. The congregation moved to a building on Cherry Street in 1771, chartered itself as an organization in 1773, and dedicated its first building in 1782. It is estimated that in 1775, the city of Philadelphia had a population of approximately 35,000 of whom 300 were Jewish. Benjamin Franklin was an earlier contributor to its building fund.
Among the oldest Jewish congregations in Philadelphia, Mikveh Israel has counted among its members prominent revolutionary patriots, such as Jonas Phillips, the Gratz family, and Haym Solomon, who financed the war. Congregant Rebecca Gratz founded and managed philanthropic and educational institutions devoted to the needs of women and children, Jewish and gentile; she is reputed to be the model for Rebecca of York, heroine of Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott.
Rabbi Emanuel Nunes Carvalho emigrated from Britain to Barbados to Charleston, South Carolina before being called to lead this synagogue for about three years until his death (1814-1817). He published A Key to the Hebrew Tongue (Philadelphia, 1815) and his A Sermon, preached on Sunday, July 7, 1816, on Occasion of the Death of the Rev. Mr. Gershom Mendes Seixas (Philadelphia, 1816) became the first Jewish sermon printed in the United States. In 1829, Isaac Leeser became the synagogue's leader and held that position until 1850. Another prominent hazzan, Sabato Morais, succeeded Leeser. Morais served as minister for forty-six years and was an outspoken opponent of slavery prior to and during the Civil War. Dr. Abraham Neuman was rabbi from 1927 to 1943. Dr. Neuman was succeeded by David Jessurun Cardozo.
Rabbi Albert E. Gabbai has served as congregation minister since 1988.
The congregation that became Mikveh Israel first gathered for services at a private home on Stirling Alley, which was then between Cherry and Race Streets and Third and Fourth Streets.
Third and Cherry Streets, 1782-1825
When Mikveh Israel built its first synagogue in 1782, its location was moved because of protest that its proposed site next to a church would offend the Dutch Reform Protestant congregants. Prominent Philadelphians such as Benjamin Franklin and Robert Morris contributed to its building fund. In September 1782, the congregation dedicated the new building on Cherry Street near Third Street. The building seated 200 persons and had accommodations for the clergy adjoining it.
Cherry Street, 1825-1860
The congregation laid the cornerstone for its second building on September 26, 1822 on Cherry Street. It completed the Egyptian Revival synagogue in 1825. William Strickland designed the building which was the first Egyptian Revival in the United States.
117 North Seventh Street, 1860-1909
The Cherry Street synagogue was replaced in 1860 by a building at 117 N. 7th Street. This building was designed by architect John McArthur Jr., (who later would design Philadelphia City Hall).
2321 North Broad Street, 1909-1976
Pilcher and Tachau designed the fourth building which Mikveh Israel constructed in 1909 at Broad and York Strerets. Mikveh Israel worshipped at the building until 1976. The building was most recently sold for $825,000 in 2015, and is open to the public as a retail clothing store in 2017.
44 North Fourth Street, 1976–present
The Congregation announced in 1961 that it would return to Center City, where it would construct a new building. Dr. Bernard J. Alpers, vice-president of the synagogue, persuaded his friend the Philadelphia architect Louis Kahn to engage in the planning of the new synagogue building. Kahn produced ten designs for the building between 1961 and 1972. However, the Congregation decided that construction and maintenance costs were too high, and the synagogue was never built.
The new building was instead designed by architectural firm Harbeson, Hough, Livingston & Larson on a more modest scale, and shared with the nascent Museum of Jewish History. The fifth building was dedicated and opened on July 4, 1976  The synagogue is located at 44 North Fourth Street in the Old City neighborhood, just north of Market Street and in close proximity to Christ Church.
The NMAJH moved to its own building on the southeast corner of 5th and Market Streets on November 15, 2010 
Active Community Synagogue
Mikveh Israel is an active synagogue with weekly Shabbat and holiday services which serves the local Center City Jewish community, and greater Delaware Valley. It is a member of the Center City Kehilla and regularly hosts Sephardic heritage cultural and educational events. The synagogue hosted the 2017 annual world conference of the Society for Crypto-Judaic Studies.
Mikveh Israel and Christ Church have a long-standing relationship dating from the founding of the synagogue to the present day. The present location of Mikveh Israel places the two congregations as close neighbors. Christ Church was supportive of Mikveh Israel's first plan to construct a building in the 18th-century. When Mikveh Israel's synagogue burned in 1872, Christ Church contributed funds to the construction of the new building. The congregations have a long-standing custom of sharing a fellowship-dinner once a year which alternates between the buildings of the two congregations.
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- Congregation Mikveh Israel. "Our History." 2011. Accessed February 2, 2015. http://www.mikvehisrael.org/e2_cms_display.php?p=past_our_history
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Congregation Mikveh Israel
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