List of the oldest synagogues in the United States


List of the oldest synagogues in the United States
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.

Contents

Oldest congregations

Sephardi congregations

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

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.[2]

Oldest existing buildings

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

By state

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

Alabama

  • 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.

Alaska

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

Arkansas

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

Arizona

  • 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.[9]

California

  • Temple Israel (Stockton, California), founded 1851. Congregation has been in continuous existence, housed in four different locations over time.
  • The two next oldest congregations in California are Emanu-El and Sherith Israel, in San Francisco. Both were founded in 1851. The two synagogues were founded simultaneously because the city's Jews could not agree on whether to follow the prayer customs of the Polish or German Jews. Emanu-El was therefore, founded as the congregation of the German Jews and Sherith Israel as the congregation of the Polish Jews.[10]
  • Congregation B'nai Israel (Sacramento, California) is the oldest congregation in Sacramento, California tracing its history back to September 2, 1852 [11] making it the first congregationally owned synagogue west of the Mississippi River.
  • Congregation Beth Israel (San Diego, California)'s 1889 building may be the oldest in California.

Colorado

Connecticut

Delaware

  • 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".

Florida

  • 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 United Hebrews of Ocala building built in 1888 may be the oldest Florida synagogue building still standing.

Georgia

Hawaii

  • 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.[13]

Idaho

  • Ahavath Beth Israel, Boise, Idaho (1896)[6]. 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

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

Indiana

Iowa

  • Temple Emanuel of Davenport was formed as B’Nai Israel Congregation on October 21, 1861.[15]

Kentucky

Louisiana

Maryland

Massachusetts

  • Ohabei Shalom, founded in 1843, is the oldest congregation.
  • Temple Israel, (Boston, Massachusetts), the 1885 building, now a church, is the oldest synagogue still standing in Massachusetts.

Minnesota

Mississippi

  • B'nai Israel was organized in Natchez in 1843, making it the oldest congregation in Mississippi.[16]
  • 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.[17]

Missouri

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

New Jersey

  • 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 [18]

New York

  • Congregation Shearith Israel, 1654, is the oldest congregation in New York and the United States.
  • Angel Orensanz Center, 1849, is the oldest synagogue building still standing in New York State.
  • Temple Society of Concord, 1839, located in Syracuse.

North Carolina

Ohio

Oklahoma

  • Temple Emeth, in Ardmore was the oldest known Jewish congregation in Oklahoma.[19] Founded prior to statehood, they acquired their first building in 1912.[19] The congregation disbanded in 2004.[19]
  • Temple B'nai Israel was formed in May 1903 in Oklahoma City, making it the oldest active congregation in Oklahoma.[20]

Rhode Island

  • 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

  • Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim Synagogue in Charleston was started in 1740.

Tennessee

Texas

  • Temple Beth Israel (Houston, Texas), founded in 1854, is the oldest congregation in the state.

Vermont

  • Ohavi Zedek, (Burlington, Vermont), The first synagogue built in Burlington, started by 18 people in 1885; the name means "Lovers of Justice." The congregation, affectionately known as "OZ,", now some 400 families, has a somewhat more modern (1958) facility a few blocks away. This building is now occupied by the Ahavath Garem congregation.

Virginia

Gates of Heaven Synagogue, Madison, Wisconsin (1863)

Washington

  • 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.[21]

Wisconsin

  • The 1863 Gates of Heaven Synagogue in Madison is the oldest in the state and the eighth-oldest in the country.

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c Jonathan Sarna, American Judaism, Yale University Press, 2004, p. 19.
  2. ^ Jonathan Sarna, American Judaism, Yale University Press, 2004, pp. 18ff, 56ff.
  3. ^ http://www.smallsynagogues.com/donaldsonville.htm
  4. ^ Rediscovering Jewish Infrastructure: Update on United States Nineteenth Century Synagogues, Mark W. Gordon, American Jewish History 84.1 (1996) 11-27 [1]
  5. ^ a b [2] Rediscovering Jewish Infrastructure: Update on United States Nineteenth Century Synagogues, Mark Gordon, American Jewish History 84.1 (1996) 20-27
  6. ^ a b Synagogue architecture in America: faith, spirit & identity By Henry Stolzman, Daniel Stolzman [3]
  7. ^ http://www.frozenchosen.org/cbs/aboutus/history/ Congregation Beth Sholom
  8. ^ Jewish Encyclopedia - Arkansas
  9. ^ http://www.nmajh.org/exhibitions/postcards/cards/04.htm Jewish Postcards
  10. ^ Sarna, Jonathatn, American Judaism, Yale University Press, 2004, p. 73
  11. ^ [4]
  12. ^ Olitzky, Kerry M.; Raphael, Marc Lee. The American Synagogue: A Historical Dictionary and Sourcebook, Greenwood Press, June 30, 1996, pp. 76–80.
  13. ^ Temple Emanu-El - History
  14. ^ Oldest Synagogue in Indiana Celebrates 100th Anniversary; Special Sermons Scheduled [5]
  15. ^ Temple Emanuel celebrates 150 years [6]
  16. ^ B'Nai Israel to Unveil Historical Marker
  17. ^ http://www.isjl.org/media/article_dedication.htm
  18. ^ TBJ website http://tbj.org/about-us/temple-history/ accessdate=2011-05-17
  19. ^ a b c http://www.americanjewisharchives.org/aja/FindingAids/TempleEmeth.html
  20. ^ Jewish Synagogues in Oklahoma City
  21. ^ WSJHS (2006), The Jewish Experience in Washington State: A Chronology 1845–2005, Washington State Jewish Historical Society (WSJHS), p. 14–15.

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