List of the oldest synagogues in the United States

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Touro Synagogue, Newport, Rhode Island (founded c.1658, built 1759-63)
Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim Synagogue, Charleston, South Carolina (founded 1749, built 1840-41)
Congregation Shearith Israel, New York, New York (founded 1654, built 1896-97)

Synagogues may be considered "oldest" based on different criteria such as oldest surviving building or oldest congregation. Some older synagogue buildings have been in continuous use as synagogues, while others have been converted to other purposes, and a few, such as the Touro Synagogue, were shuttered for many decades. Some early established congregations have been in continuous existence, while other early congregations have 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 (founded 1733, built 1876-78)

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, with one exception, according to the scholar Jonathan Sarna.[3]

Oldest existing buildings[edit]

This list includes only buildings originally built as synagogues that are still standing. Some continue in use as Jewish houses of worship; others have been adaptively reused. Fewer than 100 purpose-built synagogues constructed prior to 1900 remain standing.[4] A portion of these are highlighted below.

Angel Orensanz Center, New York, New York (1849-50)
Plum Street Temple, Cincinnati, Ohio (1865-66)

By state[edit]

Adas Israel, Washington, D.C. (1876)

Alabama[edit]

  • Congregation Sha'arai Shomayim, located in Mobile, 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]

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's 1884 building was 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]

Florida[edit]

Temple Beth-El, Pensacola, Florida (1933)
  • 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. The current synagogue building in Pensacola opened in 1933.[17]
  • The United Hebrews of Ocala building was built in 1888. It is the oldest Florida synagogue building still standing.[4] It is now the Ocala Bible Chapel, a Christian congregation.
  • First Congregation Sons of Israel is the oldest synagogue in “The Nation's Oldest City”, St. Augustine, Florida. The congregation was chartered in 1908. The current synagogue building was dedicated in 1923. It is the oldest Florida synagogue building continuously used as a synagogue since construction.

Georgia[edit]

  • Congregation Mickve Israel of Savannah, Georgia was organized in 1733.
  • Congregation of B'nai Israel Synagogue of Augusta, Georgia, was organized in 1846, and its 1869 building is still present on Telfair street in downtown Augusta
  • Temple Beth Tefilloh of Brunswick, Georgia, was established in 1886, and its 1889-90 building was designed by renowned Jewish architect Alfred S. Eichberg. Beth Tefilloh has been continuously active since its founding.

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.[18]

Idaho[edit]

  • Ahavath Beth Israel, Boise, Idaho (1895-96).[5] The synagogue was built for Beth Israel, founded in 1895. In the 1980s, the congregation was formed as a merger of Congregation Beth Israel and Ahavath Israel, founded in 1912.

Illinois[edit]

Indiana[edit]

Iowa[edit]

  • Temple Emanuel of Davenport was formed as B'Nai Israel Congregation on October 21, 1861.[21]
  • B'nai Israel Congregation, Keokuk, Iowa. First permanent Jewish house of worship in Iowa, 1877.[22]

Kentucky[edit]

Kansas[edit]

Louisiana[edit]

Shaare Tefilah, New Orleans, Louisiana (1860-65)
  • 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][24]
  • Shaare Tefilah (Gates of Prayer) in New Orleans, Louisiana, is the oldest surviving synagogue building in the state.[4] Architect J. Thiele designed the brick structure to replace an earlier building, but construction was delayed by the Civil War. The synagogue was dedicated in 1865. 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 was converted to a 12-unit apartment building.[25][26]
  • Temple Sinai (New Orleans, Louisiana), the city's oldest Reform congregation, was established in 1870.

Maine[edit]

Maryland[edit]

Massachusetts[edit]

Temple Israel, Boston (1884-85)

Michigan[edit]

Minnesota[edit]

Mississippi[edit]

  • B'nai Israel was organized in Natchez in 1843, making it the oldest congregation in Mississippi.[28][29]
  • 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.[30][31]
  • Gemiluth Chessed (Acts of Loving Kindness) is a Moorish Revival synagogue in Port Gibson, Mississippi. It is the oldest surviving synagogue in the state and the only building of this architectural style. It was built in 1892 by a community of Jewish immigrants from German states and Alsace-Lorraine. Due to declining population, the congregation closed in 1986

Missouri[edit]

Montana[edit]

Temple Emanu-El, Helena, Montana (1890-91)

Nebraska[edit]

  • Temple Israel of Omaha, the oldest congregation in Nebraska (1871).[34]

New Hampshire[edit]

  • Temple Adath Yeshurun of Manchester, founded in 1891, is the oldest congregation in New Hampshire.
  • Temple Israel, first permanent Jewish house of worship in New Hampshire, Portsmouth, 1910.[35]

New Jersey[edit]

  • Congregation B'nai Jeshurun of the Town of Paterson, incorporated by the New Jersey Legislature on December 22, 1847. The congregation was later named The Barnert Temple in honor of a past-president and former mayor of Paterson, Nathan Barnert. In 1987, the congregation moved from Paterson to Franklin Lakes, its current location. [36][37]
  • Congregation Adas Emuno (New Jersey)'s 1883 building in Hoboken is the oldest surviving synagogue building in New Jersey, although it is no longer used as a synagogue.[4]
  • Congregation B'nai Jeshurun was founded in 1848. Originally located in Newark, it is currently located in Short Hills, NJ.[38]
  • Har Sinai Temple was founded in 1857. Originally located in Trenton, it is currently located in Pennington, NJ.

New Mexico[edit]

  • Congregation Albert, founded in 1897, is the oldest continuing Jewish organization in New Mexico.[39][40]
  • Congregation Montefiore, Las Vegas, N.M. was the first Jewish congregation in New Mexico; it was founded in 1884[41]

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]

  • Congregation Brit Shalom, founded in 1839. Its original synagogue was built in 1842 and in 1996 was confirmed as one of the three oldest synagogues in the United States.[4]The building burned down in 2003. The congregation, having moved to a new building in 1959, is still intact.
  • Congregation Mikveh Israel was founded in the 1740s in Philadelphia.
  • Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel, founded in 1847, is the sixth oldest Reform Jewish synagogue in the United States.

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 c.1658, is the oldest Jewish house of worship in North America that is still standing. It was built in 1759-63.

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 the oldest synagogue building in Tennessee.[4]
  • First permanent Jewish congregation in Tennessee, Children of Israel, 1858 in Memphis. Originally known as Congregation B'nai Israel-Children of Israel, Temple Israel (Memphis) was formed by 36 German Jewish families in 1853 and chartered by the state of Tennessee on March 2, 1854.[48]
  • Congregation Ohabai Sholom (The Temple) in Nashville, had its beginnings in the late 1840s when a group of Jewish residents met for religious services. The synagogue lists its beginning year as 1851, when a benevolent society purchased cemetery property. It began as Khal Kodesh Mogen David and received a charter on March 2, 1854.[49]

Texas[edit]

B'nai Israel, Galveston, Texas (1870)

Utah[edit]

Vermont[edit]

Virginia[edit]

Washington[edit]

  • The state's first synagogue was Temple Emamu-El in Spokane was built in 1892 and later demolished. The congregation later merged with Keneseth Israel to form the present-day Temple Beth Shalom.[52][53]
  • In 1914, Sephardic Bikur Holim Congregation was established. It is open for three daily prayers, on every Sabbath and all Holidays. The congregation's original members hail from the country of Turkey.

West Virginia[edit]

Wisconsin[edit]

Gates of Heaven, Madison, Wisconsin (1863)

Wyoming[edit]

  • Mt. Sinai Congregation, in Cheyenne, Wyoming, the oldest synagogue in Wyoming, built in 1910.[58]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Sarna, Jonathan. American Judaism. Yale University Press, 2004. p. 19.
  2. ^ a b c "The History of Our Congregation". Touro Synagogue.
  3. ^ Sarna, Jonathan. American Judaism. Yale University Press, 2004. pp. 18ff, 56ff.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u Gordon, Mark W., Rediscovering Jewish Infrastructure: Update on United States Nineteenth Century Synagogues. American Jewish History, 84.1, 1996, p. 11–27. 2019 article update.
  5. ^ a b Stolzman, Henry; Stolzman, Daniel Synagogue Architecture in America: Faith, Spirit & Identity. The Images Publishing Group Pty Ltd. 2004.
  6. ^ "Shaarai Shomayim (Gates of Heaven)". Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation.
  7. ^ "About Us". Congregation Beth Sholom. Archived from the original on July 26, 2011.
  8. ^ Adler, Cyrus; Currick, M. C. "Arkansas". Jewish Encyclopedia. 1906.
  9. ^ 'Arkansas Jewish History". Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation.
  10. ^ "Stone Avenue Temple: Tucson AZ Archived 2008-09-07 at the Wayback Machine". Jewish Postcards. National Museum of American Jewish History.
  11. ^ Sarna, Jonathan. American Judaism. Yale University Press, 2004. p. 73
  12. ^ Panneton, Judie. "History - How Beautiful is Our Heritage: 160 years and Still Going Strong". Congregation B'nai Israel. Archived from the original on September 2, 2012.
  13. ^ Olitzky, Kerry M.; Raphael, Marc Lee. The American Synagogue: A Historical Dictionary and Sourcebook, Greenwood Press. June 30, 1996. pp. 76–80.
  14. ^ "Ohabe Shalom - Lovers of Peace". Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation.
  15. ^ a b "Illustrated History of 1876 Synagogue". Lilian and Albert Small Jewish Museum. Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington.
  16. ^ "Yes, That Was D.C.'s Oldest Synagogue Moving Down The Street (Again)". WAMU. Retrieved 2019-07-03.
  17. ^ "Pensacola, Florida". Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation.
  18. ^ "A History of Jews in Hawaii & the Kalakaua Torah". Temple Emanu-El.
  19. ^ http://www.anshaiemeth.org/
  20. ^ "Oldest Synagogue in Indiana Celebrates 100th Anniversary; Special Sermons Scheduled". Jewish News Archives. February 27, 1948. Archived from the original on April 19, 2013.
  21. ^ Baker, Deirdre Cox. "Temple Emanuel celebrates 150 years". The Quad City Times. April 14, 2011.
  22. ^ "B'nai Israel Congregation - First Permanent Jewish House of Worship in Iowa". Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation.
  23. ^ "Temple B'Nai Jeshurun". Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation.
  24. ^ "Shangarai Chasset: Gates of Mercy Synagogue: First permanent Jewish House of Worship in the State of Louisiana". Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation.
  25. ^ Wilson, Samuel and Bernard Lemann. New Orleans Architecture, Volume 1: The Lower Garden District. (New Orleans: Pelican Publishing, 1990): 129.
  26. ^ Ponchartrain, Blake. "New Orleans Know-It-All: Where is the Oldest Synagogue in New Orleans?" Gambit. February 8, 2010.
  27. ^ Bangor, Maine: Congregation Beth Israel 1897". Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation.
  28. ^ "B'Nai Israel to Unveil Historical Marker". The Clarion-Ledger (Jackson, Mississippi). April 28, 2006. Archived from the original on May 8, 2012.
  29. ^ "Temple B'Nai Israel: Natchez, Mississippi". Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation.
  30. ^ "Site of Mississippi's First Synagogue Dedicated". Goldring-Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life. 2006. Archived from the original on May 8, 2012.
  31. ^ "Temple Beth Israel - Jackson, Mississippi". Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation.
  32. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-02-20. Retrieved 2014-02-13.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  33. ^ http://www.jewish-american-society-for-historic-preservation.org/completedprgms2/helenamontanaapril2001.html
  34. ^ http://www.jewish-american-society-for-historic-preservation.org/completedprgms2/omahanebraska.html
  35. ^ http://www.jewish-american-society-for-historic-preservation.org/completedprgms2/portsmouthnewhampshire.html
  36. ^ https://barnerttemple.org/Our_Community/Who_We_Are
  37. ^ Schwartz, C., 2007, An American Odyssey: American Religious Freedom and The Nathan Barnert Memorial Temple. Jersey City: KTAV Publishing House.
  38. ^ TBJ website http://tbj.org/about-us/temple-history/ accessdate=2011-05-17
  39. ^ [1]
  40. ^ [2]
  41. ^ http://www.jewish-american-society-for-historic-preservation.org/completedprgms2/lasvegasnm.html
  42. ^ http://daytoninmanhattan.blogspot.com/2011/07/quiet-little-synagogue-at-53-charles.html
  43. ^ http://www.greenwichvillagesynagogue.org/
  44. ^ https://www.orachchaim.org
  45. ^ Stolzman, Henry; Stolzman, Daniel (2004). Synagogue Architecture in America: Faith, Spirit & Identity. ISBN 9781864700749.
  46. ^ a b c http://www.americanjewisharchives.org/aja/FindingAids/TempleEmeth.html
  47. ^ Jewish Synagogues in Oklahoma City
  48. ^ History | Temple Israel
  49. ^ A Short History of Congregation Ohabai Sholom
  50. ^ http://www.jewish-american-society-for-historic-preservation.org/completedprgms2/saltlakecityutah.html
  51. ^ http://www.jewish-american-society-for-historic-preservation.org/completedprgms2/richmondva.html
  52. ^ WSJHS (2006), The Jewish Experience in Washington State: A Chronology 1845–2005, Washington State Jewish Historical Society (WSJHS), p. 14–15.
  53. ^ http://www.jewish-american-society-for-historic-preservation.org/completedprgms2/spokanewashington.html
  54. ^ http://www.jewish-american-society-for-historic-preservation.org/completedprgms2/charlestonwva.html
  55. ^ Jewish Federation Madison
  56. ^ Gates of Heaven
  57. ^ History | Congregation Emanu-El B’ne Jeshurun
  58. ^ http://www.jewish-american-society-for-historic-preservation.org/completedprgms2/cheyennewyoming.html