Personal impressions create a human dimension in any historical research. Facts regarding dates of original incorporation, addresses and present use of synagogue buildings are a necessity. However, synagogues are buildings - brick and mortar. People of the congregation make a synagogue come to life. Their impressions, reminiscences and anecdotes bring a personal perspective into the bare historical facts.
Gathering reminiscences was a challenge. Many Jewish publications in the United States were sent
a letter requesting that the notice,
Have You Ever Lived in the South Bronx? be published.
A separate article was sent to
The Bronx Times requesting reminiscences and interesting
stories about synagogues in the South Bronx.
The author visited Senior Citizens' Nursing Homes in the New York Metropolitan area to describe the project, to present information about synagogues and to ask whether the residents could help provide facts, reminiscences and/or stories.
Finally, a letter was sent to selected respondents, asking for permission to quote excerpts from their letters for publication in the book.
Many respondents questioned the boundaries of the South Bronx. The definition of the South Bronx depended upon the age of the respondent. The older the person, the farther south the boundary. The oldest respondents used 149th Street as the definition. The boundaries then moved to 161st Street, to 170th Street, and, for the youngest group, Tremont Avenue.
A large number of respondents discussed the
East Bronx as contrasted to the
Bronx. People living in the West Bronx (Grand Concourse area) believed that the name South Bronx
did not pertain to them. Residents who lived near 161st Street and the Grand Concourse claimed
that their area had as high a socio-economic level as anywhere in The Bronx. To them, South Bronx
related to people who lived eastward and had a much lower socio-economic level.
The definition of east and west had many interpretations. For people who lived on the Grand Concourse, east was anywhere more than one block east of where they lived. For those who resided west of Webster Avenue, east was anywhere east of where they lived. The farther west one lived, the better image one had of oneself and the farther one looked down upon the people living to the east.
Some synagogues made a greater impression and had a more lasting influence on their congregants than others. The number of responses for some synagogues was considerable, while there were few or no responses for other synagogues that were comparable in size.
The greatest number of responses were about the Tremont Temple. Other synagogues which had former congregants send large numbers of letters were Kehilath Israel, Montefiore Center, Adath Israel, Temple Elohim and Congregation Hope of Israel.
Few respondents sent reminiscences about store front or
Shteebles (synagogues in two family
houses). The reasons may be varied. One, congregants were usually older people who were Orthodox.
Few of these people are still living. Also, many of these older people could not read or write
English and may not be aware of the query for information. Incidentally, every response was
written in English. Most of the store front synagogues were not recorded anywhere. One respondent
wrote of two store front
shuls on Intervale near Westchester Avenue and another wrote of a
synagogue that was on the second floor of a row of stores on Wilkins Avenue (It had no rabbi so
the congregants conducted the services themselves.). Some store front synagogues were
Day synagogues. They were open for a few weeks a year by enterprising rabbis.
Most respondents presented personal impressions of one particular synagogue. Some had moved from one section of The Bronx to another. These respondents had reminiscences about two or more synagogues.
Several people presented a picture of life in The Bronx that was both religious and secular in nature. These descriptions depict the essence of life in a different time and a different milieu. Many who lived in that era will recognize the activities, the feelings and the world of growing up in The Bronx.
Many respondents asked (rhetorically) whether their children and grandchildren could ever understand what it was like to grow up in the Bronx. Also, they wondered whether their children's and grandchildren's memories of today's synagogues would be as vivid as theirs is after thirty or forty years.
There are many stories and reminiscences that can not be written in a book. These were told in confidence or with the stipulation that they not be published. Some of the stories were about relatives who, as treasurers, disappeared with money; one told of a relative who was a counterfeiter; and some stories concerned married men who ran away with other men's wives.
One respondent sent a complete treasurer's ledger for all income received and disbursements made for
the years 1928 and 1929. The small synagogue off the Grand Concourse has disappeared and there is
no record of its having ever existed. The pages were torn out of a ledger many years ago and the
just couldn't throw them out.
A number of letters referred to cantors who later became famous. Richard Tucker, who became an opera singer, was the cantor at Adath Israel (169th Street and the Grand Concourse). He reputedly left in 1943 or 1944 because the Board of Directors wouldn't give him a $500 increase in pay.
Jan Peerce was a tenor in the Louis Reines Choir, which had its home in the Hunts Point section and sang in various synagogues in the Bronx. Someone, who was in the same choir with Jan Peerce, remembers him as Pinky Perlman.
Cantors Yossele Rosenblatt and Leibele Waldman were associated, at different times, with the Hunts Point Palace - a commercial hall on Southern Boulevard, half a block north of 163rd Street.
Excerpts from a few letters will put the time and the place in perspective.
The first, by Saul Lindenbaum, can be titled,
A Tale of Three Synagogues. He lived east
of the Bronx River, near Westchester Avenue.
When I was nine years old, my parents decided that it
was time to begin my Hebrew education. Thus it was
that I found myself at my first synagogue, Young
Israel of Bronx Gardens, which was located on Ward
Avenue between Westchester Avenue and 172nd Street.
I believe it was a conservative synagogue, but to
this day I don't know the significance of the phrase
Bronx Gardens, which I never heard used in any other
context. At any rate, my best friend Gerry and I
ran afoul of a young Israeli teacher there. She
made our lives miserable, and vice versa, and for
years the only Hebrew conversational word I knew
Sheket! (Be quiet!). By the age of eleven
we switched to my second synagogue.
Synagogue, in fact, is too grand a name for what was
actually a storefront
shul. It was located on the
Watson side of the building in which I lived, 1071
Elder Avenue (there is presently a vacant store on
the site). If my memory serves me correctly, (an
increasingly risky assumption), it was next to a
Chinese laundry. I can't recall the name of the
shul, but it was Orthodox. The rabbi was European,
and he wore a black hat, a long black coat, and had
a full beard with sidecurls. The Hebrew School
teacher was a man, and the fact that he was a Holo-
caust survivor did not, I'm sorry to say, prevent us
from making his life as utterly miserable as we had
the Israeli lady's at Young Israel.
Nevertheless, I kept getting older, and on a frigid
Thursday morning in February, 1952, I managed to
successfully complete my Bar Mitzvah. Interestingly,
this did not quite end my involvement with this shul.
Because it was so small, it sometimes had a problem
in getting the requisite ten men together for the
evening service. This was handled by sending an
elderly man into the street to recruit post-Bar
Mitzvah boys to join the worshippers. At first, we
were able to fool this man, who came to be known as
The Hook, by pretending to be Italian, or by saying
that we were too young. But the rabbi got wise and
began to act as a spotter for the Hook, and many a
game of stickball, touch football and pitcher batter
catcher was interrupted when a key player was
co-opted for divine worship.
My third synagogue was Ward Avenue Shul, located on Ward Avenue between Westchester and Watson Ave- nues. This was a handsome place with large doors and high, broad steps. My father always went there for the High Holy Days, and I often went along. It was an Orthodox shul, with no English in the service. Even the sermon was in Yiddish, so it didn't hold much attraction for a teen-age boy who was pre- occupied mainly with girls, rhythm and blues and the New York (baseball) Giants. And when, in the mid 1950s, they began to use a prayerbook with an English translation on the facing page, that only made matters worse. I couldn't believe that we were spending hours reading about the ritual for temple sacrifices. In retrospect, I can say with great certainty that I began to become a Reform Jew at the Ward Avenue Shul before I even knew that Reform Judaism existed.
One final word about the Ward Avenue Shul. My friend
Gerry had his Bar Mitzvah there around Washington's
Birthday in 1952. There was a big snow storm going
on but since we all lived within walking distance,
things went on as planned. A meal in the shul's
social hall followed the service, and being healthy
teenagers, a group of us went outside between courses
to play in the snow. The inevitable snowball fight
ensued, and a kid we called
Fishy was hit in the
eye with an
iceball. No real damage was done, but
his eye was swelling alarmingly by the time we came
back in for dessert, and it caused quite a sensation.
I live in Baltimore now, and for 20 years have
belonged to a quiet, suburban, Reform Congregation.
My kids went there and liked it, but I wonder if
their memories of it will be as vivid as mine are of
these three synagogues after 40 years have passed.
The second letter was written by Irving Berger, who lived east of Southern Boulevard near the Freeman Street subway station.
I was born in the apartment house we lived in at 1235 Vyse Avenue, corner of Freeman Street on Feb. 5, 1917. My first school was P.S. 54 near Crotona Park and the first synagogue I remember was on Hoe Avenue. Our next move, as my father's finances improved, was to West Farms Road. I was trans- ferred to P.S. 66 but I still went to the Hoe Ave. synagogue because my grandmother lived around the corner from the shul and it was here she shlepped me to Hebrew School when I would have rather played stickball. I doubt if today's youngsters even know what a three sewer or four sewer man was, or how we cut a broom off so we could make a bat out of it. My recollection of Hebrew School was of an old bearded teacher who spoke to us in Yiddish and was forever chewing tobacco and spitting out juice into a spittoon. He was also ambidextrous and could hit any of us children who were misbehaving with his pointer.
How can I, as a father and a grandfather of a 25 year
old boy explain these times to them? How a man came
around with a pushcart and shaved the ice and then
poured syrup over it for which we paid either two or
three cents, depending on how many pennies we had at
the time or what our mothers threw down from the
window wrapped in a piece of paper. When my mother
took me down to the eastside to visit her sisters, it
was here that I first heard
Who's got three? I've
got two. The price for the movies was two for a
nickel. At Loew's Freeman, the price was a dime.
Our grandson who has a home with a pool in an
affluent area could never understand these times.
Hannah Applebaum, in her letter, presents a phenomenon related by many respondents - the annual display of finery on the holidays. Also, sections of Hannah's letter related to how her parents selected a synagogue and the use of some movie theaters for the High Holy Day services are included.
I can't help recalling that on High Holy Day after-
noons there were always tremendous outpourings of the
Jewish population (certainly in the majority in that
area) strolling on the streets of the Grand Concourse
dressed in their holiday finery (like a Fifth Avenue
Easter parade). Many of the faces looked familiar
only because you had seen them on other days of the
year riding to work on the subway. There was some-
thing religious (or certainly an expression of
ethnic solidarity) in this annual phenomenon.
My family attended services on the High Holy Days,
for which it was customary to buy tickets. My father
also went to shul to respectfully say
The first shul I remember was Congregation Tchelath
Israel on Jackson Avenue and 167-168th Street. The
rabbi there was Louis Finkelstein who later became
chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary. The
congregation moved to Crotona Park East in 1926.....
Other shuls my parents went to in subsequent years
were on 160 or 161 Street between Boston Road and
Forest Avenue and at Macy Place and Prospect
Avenue. These synagogues were chosen because of the
reputation of the cantor, choir or rabbi; also the
decorum. They varied with my parent's ability to pay
for whatever the cost of the tickets was. Distance
did not seem to phase them. They always walked; and
I suspect there must have been some days it rained.
I know they took their religion seriously, but it
seems as if choices were made in much the same way as
if they were made in connection with the purchase of
tickets for a favored theatrical entertainment.
High Holy Day services were also held in neighborhood
movie houses like Loew's Burland Theater on Prospect
Avenue. My father was active in charitable organ-
izations - the Bikur Cholim Convalescent Home - which
rented the theater for the High Holy Day Services as
a fund raising event. For weeks in advance, huge
free-standing billboards were placed in front of the
theater announcing the forthcoming services, even
those to be held on Slichot. (Although her father
was active in recruiting people to attend services
at the theater, he never attended himself.)
Meyer Chessin writes, in the next letter, about a problem many business people had during the Depression. The Orthodox rabbis wanted Jews to strictly adhere to the Laws. The grocers found it difficult to sell only kosher food and make a living. Meyer Chessin lived on East 178th Street and attended Congregation B'nai Israel on Arthur Avenue near 180th Street.
Most of my memories are probably matched by many
others. I did attend cheder at the Arthur Avenue
synagogue until my Bar Mitzvah in 1934. Perhaps my
most vivid recollection was of one of the old world
rabbis who taught us to denounce my father as
man for selling Jello and other such foods in his
small grocery store on Monterey Avenue. This was
during the depths of the depression and I knew my
father was more saint than devil. As much as any-
thing, that incident turned me strongly against
Orthodoxy, and even the religion in general, and
it's taken me many years to recover.
Jews who lived in the South Bronx were not affluent. Most had little money and couldn't afford to pay for membership in a large (or, in some cases, any) congregation. Store front synagogues abounded in the South Bronx. There are no records of their existence except in the memories of the people who used them. The following letter from Cookie Lewis Marks explains how some families fulfilled their religious obligations.
Right across the street (from our apartment) on 163rd
Street was a tiny store front shul which we attended
on the High Holidays for a small donation. It seemed
to pop up at holidays, and I recollect dressing up
in a sheet with a pretty belt during Purim to imitate
Queen Esther. My brother Larry was bar mitzvah from
another store front shul on Intervale Avenue and Kelly
Street, right at the Intervale Station. We were so
poor that Larry learned through intensive short
study with a small donation to the Rabbi. My mother
used to send a full course meal every time Larry went
for his lesson. The people who had
means attended the
Hunts Point Synagogue, located located on Southern
Boulevard and Hunts Point, close to the Loew's Spooner
movie theatre and Baron's Specialty Shop. Many of them
would walk quite some distance to Crotona Park which
had a little man made lake to throw their sins into
the river after Yom Kippur Services.....The years all
this took place was 1936 to 1948.....The neighborhood
started to change after the war. The store front shuls
were gone. Many of the Jews moved to the West Bronx.
Synagogues and the Y.M.H.A. were the focal point of social activities for most Jewish teenagers.
They may have stood in front of the local candy store every evening (especially Saturday night)
waiting for the newspapers to arrive, but dances, trips and athletics all centered around the
Y and the synagogue. The following letter written by Mike Moscovitz describes an incident
at one of the synagogue dances.
Temple Beth Elohim was the Reform Temple on Faile Street and Lafayette Avenue, a half block away and across the street from the Orthodox Shul, Temple Bikur Cholim.
This, to me, was the
rich man's shul because it had
a three foot iron railing around the perimeter of the
building and there was about 40 feet of grass between
the railing and the building.
I don't remember too much more about that temple for
its religious offerings, but it was the place where I
had my first experience at dancing. It was upstairs
in the probably 50 foot square social hall on a
One of my
stickball friends, between innings, would
teach us 16 year olds a new phenomenon: the waltz: one,
two, three, together. See? It's easy - nothing to it!
Well, at the dance, I finally got up my nerve to ask
this girl whose name (on the dog tag) was either Alice
or Gladys, to dance with me. What seemed to both of
us an eternity, which may have been 30 seconds, I was
absolutely quiet, and so was she - after all, a girl
never would open the conversation. And both of us
felt one thing: I was stepping on her feet constantly
during the song
Deep Purple. It seems I was
concentrating on the one, two, three, together steps
and so I could not talk to her. I must have
miscalculated that count because the steps were on
poor Alice. Finally, she said to me,
I'm going to the Ladies Room.
It's more than 50 years since Alice went to the Ladies Room - and I'm still waiting for her to come out - and finish the dance.
And that was my daring adventure at Temple Beth Elohim.
Jack Hirschfeld grew up in the neighborhood of Freeman Street and Bryant Avenue. He had many fond memories of the Bryant Avenue Synagogue. The following are two excerpts from his letter. The first provides a brief description of his background and the second is a moving testament to a Yom Kippur appeal.
The years of my actual involvement with the shul were the war years, roughly from 1942 when I first went to cheder (I was seven) until my Bar Mitzvah in 1948. My family was observant Orthodox--we were refugees, arriving in America in 1938--but slowly assimilating. For one thing, they were not shomer shabbos, and once that is given up, the decline can be very fast. Nevertheless, we kept a kosher house until I grad- uated from high school.....
One of my strongest memories of the shul was an appeal during Yom Kippur - it must have been 1942 or 1943. Most of the congregants could understand Yiddish, but there were already many who could not. The speaker brought news of the Holocaust. I remem- ber people weeping in the shul and some of the younger men expressing disbelief as the words of the speaker were being translated.
My father, who had seen Nazism face to face, had no trouble believing that things were as bleak as the speaker said. If what he said was true, that would mean the Germans were systematically murder- ing every living Jew in Europe! The idea was too monstrous to accept. Simchas Torah is only a few weeks after Yom KIppur. I remember the strange feeling I had at the time as we danced with the Torah in a great circle around the shul, that we could feel such great joy in a time of such sor- row and danger.
Growing up poor and orthodox in the Bronx was commonplace. Ben Ganz writes about High Holy Holiday services held in a variety of places other than synagogues.
Our family moved to the lower Bronx at Jackson Avenue and East 156th Street in 1912. We were an Orthodox Jewish family and in those days observed all the Jewish holidays.
Living at Jackson Avenue, we observed the Jewish holidays at Eblings Casino (famous beer emporium) at East 156th Street. At other times, at the Burling Casino on Westchester Avenue. It was very hot and steamy and noisy when the elevated trains passed by. Near our home on Jackson Avenue, I attended a Hebrew School, dark and dirty, in a factory building. One day we were surprised and locked in by health inspectors who captured many of us and vaccinated us, except for those who escaped to the fire escapes and jumped to the street. Moving to Hoe Avenue, we could not support a synagogue and on the Holy Days made our prayers on Southern Boulevard and East 163rd Street at the Loews Boulevard and an open air ballfield. In later years, my two brothers and I joined the Rabbi Wise Free Synagogue in the Community Building on Southern Boulevard and 163rd Street. Strangely, although I could read Hebrew, I didn't understand it, so I read the English text despite my father's demands. During the 1920's, the three brothers observed the holidays but refrain- ed from attending the make-shift synagogues which our father attended unhappily but faithfully.
The last letter was written by Cantor Ruth (Cohen) Devorah who attended Kehilath Israel on Crotona Park East. Hers was a moving experience that may have changed her life.
There I was on Rosh Hashanah, 1940, a little girl skipping up the stairs to join my mother who was praying with the women in the balcony. Momma pointed her finger to the page she was up to in the prayer book, then to her lips to quiet me. I suddenly heard the thrilling sound of the cantor's voice and I looked in his direction. It wasn't until that moment that I realized it was his voice alone that filled the synagogue with these glorious sounds. I remember feeling very warm and secure as if being wrapped in a blanket. As I listened in awe, my body absorbed the loveliness of the cantor's voice. From my head to my toes I was so affected by this experience that throughout all these years it has never left me.
The story of Martin Smith's Bar Mitzvah, related and preserved on tape, is unique. His was one of the first reminiscences and provided the incentive to seek out others.
When I was Bar Mitzvahed in 1945, my father was serving in the Army and stationed in Hawaii. My mother wanted me to record my Bar Mitzvah speech and send it to my father. There were no cassette recorders in those days but there was a store on the Grand Concourse, just south of Fordham Road, that made disc records. About a week after my Bar Mitzvah, my mother made an appointment for me to record the speech at the store.
When we arrived at the store, the owner told me to go to a booth toward the rear of the store, keep my back to the street so there would be no distractions and present the speech the way I did in the synagogue.As I ended the speech, I heard a loud applause. When I turned around I saw a crowd of people standing on the sidewalk in front of the store. The store owner had turned on the loudspeaker so that everyone on the Grand Concourse could hear my Bar Mitzvah speech.
One response from Donald Spitzer, a former congregant of the Jacob Schiff Center on Valentine
Avenue, is worth relating even though the synagogue was just north of Fordham Road and considered
part of the
I was Bar Mitzvahed in the Jacob Schiff Jewish Center in 1942. When I was a junior at City College in 1950, I was asked to represent the United States in the first Maccabee games to be held in Israel. I could go if I could raise the money for my own transportation. My family didn't have the money to send me. The congregation raised the money for my trip. I won a gold medal as a member of the 1600 meter relay team.
When I attended Hebrew School with my sister in 1933, we were the only girls in the Hebrew School. We studied History, Bible and Yiddish reading and writing. We belonged to the synagogue from 1921 to 1947.
I remember that the Reiner family (Carl Reiner the actor and producer) lived across from the synagogue.
During the Holy Days a guard and a policeman were stationed at the door. No one could enter without a ticket. Children never needed a ticket.
My father paid $2.00 a week for my sister and me to attend Hebrew School. During the Depression, the synagogue could not afford to buy coal to heat the building. We sat with our coats on in class.
Mr. Abraham Koch was the head of the Executive Board of the synagogue. He was one of a few men who kept the synagogue going during the Depression.
I attended cheder at the synagogue until my Bar Mitzvah in 1934. The synagogue was Orthodox.
My family belonged to
Teres Moshe at Prospect Avenue before it moved
to Avenue St. John. My father was active in the relocation. I used to count
the stars on the dome as I played on my father's tallis fringes. When the
undercurrent of noise became too loud the shamus, Mr. Halberstab, would bang a
Shah the congregation.
The following are excerpts from a letter that was sent by the president of the synagogue to Jewish storekeepers in the neighborhood on April 28,1970:
THE ONE AND ONLY SYNAGOGUE IN THE SOUTH BRONX
Dear Friend and Neighbor,
Out of 25 synagogues in the South Bronx, there is only one still in existence. The Machzikei T.T. Torah Moses, at the above address, where one will find daily morning and evening services.
It is kept up by the burning faith and strong will power of a few determined souls, who feel the necessity of keeping the one and only synagogue going, for the benefit of a few old people who did not have the means of moving away and this is their only lifeline.
WE APPEAL TO THOSE OF YOU WHO WORK OR HAVE BUSINESSES IN THE AREA. WE NEED YOUR FINANCIAL
HELP IN THE MAINTENANCE OF THIS MUCH NEEDED SYNAGOGUE.
My parents, my brother and I came to live in the Bronx in 1943 from Montreal, Canada. My brother had his Bar Mitzvah there in 1945.
The congregation was Orthodox. The women sat upstairs and the men sat downstairs.
My mother took me to services on the Holidays. The synagogue had no air conditioning. It was hot and stifling. I never really wanted to go with her. When she passed away, I never returned for services.
During the holidays, the children played outside and ran up and down
the stairs. Old men kept yelling,
The choir had men only. There were mostly fathers and sons in the choir.
They spoke only Yiddish in Hebrew school.
Everyone walked to the synagogue on the holidays. There were few cars and everyone lived in the neighborhood.
Both my brother and I were Bar Mitzvahed at the Beekman Avenue synagogue.
The Beekman Avenue Shul was an orthodox one. Upon entering the
building, one had to walk up three steps into a lobby that led onto
the first floor stebel, where only the orthodox dovened. It had a
mechitza separating the women from the men. The torah and the
prayed books were read by the very learned, as the rabbi performed
elsewhere, but there was a gobbi always in attendance. As a child, I
remember that the speeches and appeals were always in Yiddish.
On the second floor, however, was a more important looking shul.
There were beautiful stained glass windows, with an ark held up
by two gold lions on either side. Here, the rabbi dovened with a
much larger congregation. The men seemed more affluent and more
appeals. On the Jewish holidays, the chazan
chanted, and the service was enjoyable. Looking upward, toward
the ceiling, you could see the balcony. The balcony was for the
women who came to pray or just socialize. Some women were able
to follow the services.
This upper level also served for ufrufs and bar mitzvahs. A baby naming was also part of the service. It was from the balcony that the ladies threw bags of candies, nuts and raisins after the torah was read to celebrate a happy occasion.
Torah and Hebrew were taught to the young boys in the Hebrew School four days a week after school and Sunday mornings. I don't recall any girls ever attending.
Believe it or not, I've really enjoyed remembering the past and
shul around the corner on Beekman Street.
The man who helped with the yearly festivals and plays worked in the costume department of the Metropolitan Opera Company. He made all the costumes. The costumes for the Maccabees were the finest you could find outside the Metropolitan Opera.
When the rabbi moved to Israel, he wanted me to study with him. I was a high school student at the time.
There was a large room that was used for social activities. Lekach and bromfin were served to celebrate simchas. My mother catered a large reception following my Bar Mitzvah.
My father's seat was in the third or fourth row, on the aisle on the right side as you entered. My mother always sat on the opposite side upstairs, so we could always see each other.
There was a downstairs section, a Beth Hamedrash, which was always populated by older, more Orthodox congregants which was used during the holidays as an alternate congregation. The women's section was curtained off from the men's by a sheet, and there were certainly more wigs among the women downstairs.
I have a strong memory of my cheder teacher, Rabbi Eugene
Perkins. I have often wondered what happened to him. Whatever
modern Hebrew I knew, I learned from him. I remember he was able
to get passes for us to ball games now and then. He once took us
to the Globe Theater in Times Square to see
Mr. Emanuel, a film
about a teacher trying to save Jewish kids from the Nazis.
My grandmother regularly attended services at the synagogue across from her apartment building on Bryant Avenue. My grandmother persuaded me to go by informing me that there was to be a Bar Mitzvah and bags of candy would be thrown from the women's gallery.
Around 1929 (when I was 13 years of age) I attended the Bryant Avenue shul for about 4 years. The name of the principal was Mr. Abrahamson. His daughter was an excellent teacher. Mr. Grossman and Mr. Schumugger were two teachers who drummed the passages of the siddur into my head which I remember to this day. My parents paid $3.00 per month for this education.
We had our own children's service every Saturday conducted by the children. At the close of services a lady would pass out a small bag of candy to all the children who came to service.
The shul had an upper floor for women and a lower floor for men. You had to walk up 3 steps to the massive doors and then 7 or 8 long marble steps to enter the doors into the shul itself.
My father was the rabbi of the congregation from 1951 to 1983. The congregation relocated to 2222 Cruger Avenue in the 1960s because the neighborhood was changing. The old building was left intact and not sold as a church (which my dad desperately did not want). Many years later, the second owners did resell it and eventually it did become a church.
Holy Temple Church of the Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith
Young Israel of Tremont
Rabbi Paretsky was a young refugee, unmarried, with not too god a command of English when he was hired by the Young Israel. However, within a few years he had earned a law degree, married and established himself. The Y.I. was the hub of our social life with Friday night guest speakers, Saturday night melava malkes, organizational meetings, weddings, bar mitzvahs, etc.
I was bar mitzvahed at the Young Israel. The rabbi was A. Peretsky, who was a good rabbi, gave some thought provoking sermons and was liked by the congregation. The president was a Mr.Block. who was well respected. On my bar mitzvah day I remember playing a football game with my bar mitzvah pants on. I almost tore my pants. Lucky for me. For had I, I wouldn't be able to write this to you.
I attended Hebrew school in a very vital synagogue called Kehilath Israel. For many years the synagogue was located at Jackson Avenue and Boston Road. The senior rabbi was Dr. Elias Solomon and Rabbi Louis Finkelstein was his associate. When the synagogue moved, Dr. Louis Finkelstein was the rabbi. He was a distinguished rabbi who later became president of the Jewish Theological Seminary in Manhattan. His sermons were outstanding. I have fond memories of the old and new Kehilath Israel. My Bar Mitzvah took place in the old and my sister was married in the new.
The first shul I remember was Kehilath Israel on Jackson Avenue...I attended Hebrew school for one year sometime before 1926. That year the congregation moved to Crotona Park East. In December, 1926, my sister was married in the new quarters with Rabbi Finkelstein officiating.
My son was Bar Mitzvahed at K.I. A man came to the house to give my son Bar Mitzvah lessons. It was an Orthodox synagogue. Women sat upstairs only.
Dead bodies were brought into the synagogue. The rabbi said the eulogy and the prayers.
There was a separate youth group at K.I. There were separate services and we were a social group as well.
On the high holidays, many young people stood outside in the late morning. Teenagers walked from synagogue to synagogue in the area. We would say, 'We're walking to the next shul. Do you want to come along?'
At one time, the president was Isaac Polack who was born in Rochester, England in 1861.
I remember the High Holy Days and the streets crowded with families on their way to the synagogue, wearing their new Rosh Hashonah outfits. On Simchas Torah, the children ran up and down the steps of the synagogue waving their flags. Funny, as I look back, everyone seemed to be smiling.
I remember an old man who wore a high hat and a formal cutaway jacket every Saturday.
At K.I., the president of the shul wore a top hat on Shabbos and spoke with a British accent.
Normally, I was relegated to the balcony with my bubba and other females. On Eres Simchot Torah, I was allowed to stay with my father and brother on the main floor and enjoy the parade of paper flags, topped with apples and candles.
I was married in K.I. We had the reception downstairs. The caterer forgot to serve the coffee.
I can still smell the wonderful aromas and recall the excitement, the
shopping for new clothes around holiday seasons. I've just accepted
the fact that
them days are gone forever. Our kids and grandchildren
have been deprived of something far more precious than what we have
materially given them.
The Hebrew School took the students to see a professional baseball game at Yankee Stadium. First, the visiting team batted, and next the home team came to bat. After the home team was out, the visiting team came to bat again. The rabbi (who was the principal of the school, and who was not born in the United States) got up and told the students that it was time to leave, we saw this one already. The students patiently explained to him that the only thing that had ended was the first inning. And the next eight innings were not intended to be a duplicate of the first inning. The rabbi graciously took our word for it and we stayed to see the whole ballgame.
Rabbi Schachter was very religious. He made the shul build a divider to separate the men and the women. It wasn't high enough for him. He thought we saw the men.
Rabbi Gross wore a toupe because he was a school teacher and as a rabbi had to keep his head covered. He didn't want the children to laugh if they saw him with a yarmalka.
I belonged to the sisterhood and at one meeting we had Bess Meyerson as our guest. We paid her $25.00 and her husband called for her at 10:00 P.M.
B'nai Jeshurun on 165th Street began in a vacant supermarket and gradually expanded into other store fronts. David Hollander was the second full-time rabbi. I don't recall the name of the first rabbi, but I do remember him standing at his lectern for the entire day of Yom Kippur.
I once attended an affair at the Sephardic Jewish Center. The older people, mostly from Greece and Turkey, spoke an archaic Spanish called Ladino and to my surprise I could converse with them in modern Spanish which I knew very well.
I remember the choir sneaking out and going to lunch on Yom Kippur.
The rabbi was Rabbi Murciano when I attended. He's now in Forest Hills.
I once went to a funeral in an Orthodox synagogue. Someone told me,
We named our children after living relatives while the Orthodox named their children after dead ones. When I married an Ashkenazi Jew, I went with his tradition and named our children after dead people.
Edie Gorme's mother was a member of the Sephardic Temple. Edie Gorme entertained us at a luncheon.
The first rabbi was Rabbi Cardoza.
Halfway down the hill on 169th Street was a small shul. I quizzed my father about the
shul and why we never attended services there. He replied that they were strange people.
Only after I became an adult did I realize that the
strange people were Sephardic Jews.
Our family were members of the Sephardic Temple on 169th Street. In fact, the original rabbi - Rabbi Marciano - is still practicing with the Sephardic Temple in Forest Hills.
Possibly, the most vivid memory is of the high holy days. How, as kids, we could not wait to get out of temple in order to walk down to Joyce Kilmer Park on 161st Street to socialize with our friends. On a sunny holiday there would be a thousand kids in the park, all wearing their best clothes.
Another memory is of passing the 167th Street Cafeteria on the holidays and seeing it packed with Jewish people who were taking a break from temple.
The Sephardic Jewish Center was an Orthodox synagogue, associated with the Union of
Orthodox Congregations. The synagogue had 1,000 members, mostly of Greek and Turkish
origin. The congregants ranged in their ritual observance and the synagogue tolerated
and respected the entire spectrum of personal practice. The congregation permitted the
use of microphones turned on before the Sabbath, and had separate seating for men and
women but no physical
mehitza or barrier between the men and women's sections.
Rabbi Murciano gave a sermon in English every Shabbat. There was also a daily minyon. On Rosh Hashona and Yom Kippur, a special balcony had to be constructed every year to accommodate an overflow crowd, in addition to concurrent services conducted in their auditorium downstairs.
The congregation now exists as the Sephardic Jewish Center of Forest Hills. Rabbi Murciano was given a 40th testimonial dinner by the congregation in 1993.
One memory was passing the 167th Street Cafeteria on the holidays and seeing it packed with Jewish people who were taking a break from temple.
We attended the Sephardic Jewish Center on East 169th from the late 1940s till my mom finally moved in the later 1970s. Prior to that, the family attended the Sephardic synagogue on Morris off of 170th. Rabbi Murciano taught me my Bar Mitzvah lessons. The last time I saw him was several years ago at my mother's funeral. As far as I know, he's still going strong as the Rabbi at the Forest Hills Sephardic synagogue on 108th Street. Our synagogue produced one of the world's greatest concert pianists - Murray Perahia. As a young child, he often played piano at various synagogue functions, showing signs of the greatness to follow. His family was very prominent in the Sephardic community.
I would like to correct one comment below the picture of our synagogue. Someone stated that "a special balcony had to be constructed every year to accommodate an overflow crowd" for Rosh Hashona and Yom Kippur. Not so. The balcony was a permanent structure and was one of two sections set aside for women, the other being on the left side of the main sanctuary. During the High Holidays, we always attended services in the auditorium sanctuary downstairs - the tickets were cheaper!
We went to that synagogue on Simchas Torah. We had candles and apples stuck on the stick of the flags. The candle was held on the top by a rubber band. We walked around the synagogue with lit candles. It never rained on Simchas Torah. Young women sat upstairs. Older women couldn't walk upstairs so they sat on the other side of a wooden partition.
My uncle was, at various times, president there. The rabbi, Chaim Welchansky, was a great talmudic scholar. I remember the big simchas when he finished going through the talmud. The rabbi was also the mashgiach at Isaac Gellis' Bronx meat plant.
The rabbi was the mashgiach for Magen David.
I went to Talmud Torah at Con Bikur Cholim on 174th Street in 3rd (maybe) and 4th (certainly) grade. In 4th grade (I had skipped 2nd grade and was therefore a year younger than normal), I was coming from an "IGC" class every afternoon that required a train ride back from Castle Hill Avenue to Whitlock Avenue on the 6 train and a walk from there to 174th Street. It seemed like a very long way for a young kid.
I lived a few blocks away on Longfellow Avenue near 172nd Street. The Rabbi had a few interesting techniques. One Shabbat morning he "took attendance" by calling out names of the students, which were on cards. If you were not there, your card was set aside. If you WERE there, your card remained - and the Rabbi's young daughter would pick one of the cards and the lucky child would get a model airplane. What I mainly remember about services was that the younger kids who were doing well were chosen to lead "Ashrie". Everyone got a candy bar on the way out. I thought he had good motivational techniques.
I was somewhat confused in class because we used Ashkenazi pronunciation, but at home I heard Sephardic, since my parents had lived in Israel, and I had memorized the Kiddush and similar prayers. It was a very traditional cheder-type place, it seemed to me then (and now). We were there an hour or two every afternoon, Monday-Thursday, plus going to shul on Shabbat.
I attended from Childhood up to 1966 and was Bar Mitzvahed there in 1963.
The doorway to the right was the entrance to the room that was used for studies (I presume for Talmud studies that the second "personal impression" mentioned). When the congregation flourished, it held a service for the high holidays - in addition to the one in the main worship area entered through the middle doors. It was also where the Hebrew School held its student-conducted Saturday services.
The door on the left opens to a stairway down to a series of rooms. One was where I attended Hebrew School; there was a second that was similarly used when the student population was larger, and perhaps as another "overflow" room for holiday services. There was a larger room past these that was used for celebrations.
I must correct the first of the personal impressions in your book. There was no "upstairs," and I think your photo agrees with me. One the right hand side (as you faced the Ark) was the women's section. There was a wooden partition, and I believe they were topped with brass rails from which white curtains were hung (although I don't think they were usually pulled).
I also remember Rabbi Welichansky - his sermons started with him speaking very softly (in Yiddish of course), but he got increasingly loud as the sermon wore on. I understood Yiddish, but I didn't understand why the Rabbi found it necessary to yell at the congregants. I recall that at some point my father agreed with my assessment that this was unnecessary, and we would step out prior to the sermon.
Mostly I remember the sense of community and the very encouraging attitudes of the congregants - they were your neighbors, local shopkeepers, your friends' parents and grandparents. This included the synagogue's officers - if I remember correctly, the president and vice-president circa 1960 were Mr. Greenberg and Mr. Adler, respectively. They were very well respected, and they treated everyone with respect.
I remember walking my grandmother to her shul. One of the founders was her brother whose last name was Wolff.
The Bronx Jewish Center was really Orthodox - women upstairs on the balcony and men downstairs. It was a large establishment with children running in and out during the services.
The rabbi was named Rabbi Charlap.
Your request brought back memories - some loving, some hurtful.
When my brother was Bar Mitzvahed, the women in the balcony threw bags of candy at him.
On the holidays I never went in the synagogue. My parents paid for tickets for my brother but no one paid for tickets for the girls.
During the holidays the teenagers were all dressed up. The girls never went in. We stood outside and picked up boys.
Enclosed is a copy of the 1946 holiday ticket for admission to services at the Bronx Jewish Center. This belonged to my father.
My father never made much money in the 1930s and paying for a ticket was considered an extravagance. My father justified the expense by saying that he never went to operas or the movies. This was his form of entertainment.
When I was four and five (1928 and 1929) my father took me to hear holiday services. I was awed by the enormous size of the synagogue and the high hat and long robes of the cantor. I heard cantor Joseph Rosenblatt and to this day I love cantorial music. Since I didn't take up too much room, I squeezed alongside my father.
When I was about seven, I was too big to share my father's seat and sit with the men. We couldn't afford two tickets so I no longer was able to go. I felt disappointed and hurt, particularly when I heard my father talk about the cantor and the music.
I lived with my grandparents. I remember going to meet my grandfather after Yom Kippur services.
My grandfather prayed twice a day in a small synagogue on 178th Street and Honeywell Avenue. But, on the High Holy days he went to the big shul (Bronx Jewish Center).
I remember sitting next to my grandmother. My brother was the chazan of the Junior Congregation.
The rabbi was Charlap and the teachers were Miss Blumenfeld, Miss Spector and Mr. Biederman. Aside from studying torah, prophets and the Hebrew language, we also celebrated every Jewish holiday with plays, pageants, masquerade balls, recitations and choral speaking. We learned Rashi and studied the torah Ivrit B'Ivrit.
There was an enormous Magen David on top of the building lit up at night by a hundred small light bulbs. This was a landmark that could be seen from quite a distance. I was able to hear Cantor Leibele Waldman davening on the High Holy Days. One year I was told that Hank Greenberg and his father came to daven for the holidays but wouldn't give any autographs. In the small Beis Medresh, a small group of young men and women formed a Young Israel and held separate services on Shabbos and yom tov with volunteer student rabbis.
By 1947 there was a social hall and an in-house caterer. Various youth groups met on Saturday afternoons and evenings. There was quite a bit of matchmaking going on. Girls were not encouraged to attend Hebrew School. I was taught by my father.
I was a student at the Bronx Jewish Center. My teachers were
Mr. Biederman, Mrs. Appel and Mrs. Spector. Rabbi Chalap was a
and brimstone rabbi. On the high holy days we students weren't
allowed in the sanctuary unless we had a ticket. We had our own
services upstairs. I remember our services always ending earlier on
Kol Nidre night and from outside hearing Rabbi Chalap begging,
imploring, cajoling his members for bigger and bigger donations. It
may be improper to say but I always had the feeling that there was a
small boy with an adding machine in the back room adding up the
pledges. And when the good rabbi got the amount he wanted and needed,
somebody told the rabbi to finish his appeal and get back to praying.
The Bronx Jewish Center architecture was traditional. Women were in a circular balcony and men were downstairs. The Rabbi's name was Charlop (His first name escapes me.). Actually, there were two congregations which makes it different. On the ground floor, the large room was turned over to the Young Israel of Tremont. We held our own services and in every way were an independent entity. Incidentally, we paid no rent which was generous of the host congregation.
Around 1932, the Young Israel Tremont Branch moved to its new quarters on Clinton Avenue. I remember a delicate situation just after we moved to our new building. It was traditional for Rabbi Charlop, on Yom Kippur, to come downstairs and give a sermon to the Young Israel Congregation. The first Yom Kippur after we moved it was touch and go whether he would continue this tradition by coming to our new quarters. His congregation did not want him to come because we were a few blocks away and, in a sense, his competitors. However, Rabbi Chalop showed strength and independence and came. I'll always remember that incident.
I attended the Talmud Torah at the Bronx Jewish Center. My years at the school had many fond memories. The academic standards we high and when we graduated from this Talmud Torah, we continued our studies at Marshaliah Hebrew High School. We entered the school at the third year of studies. Many went on to study at the Jewish Theological Seminary. (a woman's story)
We went to a small store front schul on 181st Street between Walton and Morris Avenues. I even remember the rabbi's name, but not the spelling - Rabbi Pegorelsky. We lived in the area until 1941.
I am a former North-Central Bronx boy from E.208th St & Bainbridge Av., which is directly across the street from the Sholem Alechem Schul (now occupied by some department of Montefiore Hospital). I was Bar Mitzvahed from the Moshulu Parkway Jewish Center in March, 1957. The Rabbi (whose well-known name escapes me right now) also had married my parents there in 1941. I had also attended Young Israel of Mosholu Parkway when Rabbi Zev Charlot was young and new to the cat-bird seat (we kids often made life miserable for the really nice man). I also attended with friends the teen recreation center provided by the Nathon Strauss Jewish Center on Gun Hill Rd.
There was another temple/synagogue on the corner of Kossuth Ave and E. 208th St that was the original home for the Young Israel of Mosholu Parkway congregation before they bought the 20th St & Steuben Ave corner property and replaced the private home that sat there for many years. I cannot remember what it was called, but as a Bonx Home News paperboy delivering his route, I was stopped more than once and asked if I was Jewish by some older man. And when I answered in the affirmative, was asked to make up the odd man missing for the evening prayer minion.
The building was built after the Civil War as a home for the landowner of a large estate. I believe he was an officer in the Northern Army.
This was a Reform synagogue. Organ music was played at the services.
Judge Stakel, who was once the synagogue president, and Senator Berg were members.
There was a church in the building before it became a shul.
This was a German synagogue. I spoke German until I entered kindergarten.
I remember that services were held in the Hunts Point Palace before the synagogue was dedicated.
Eighty years ago we had goats in the back yards of the houses in the neighborhood.
My mother was the treasurer of the sisterhood. I saw
when I was 5 years old. My mother and I went with the
I was Bar Mitzvahed at the temple. There was a weeping willow in the front yard.
The classrooms were upstairs and an attic on the top floor.
During the Depression, art lessons were given by a teacher who was funded by the W.P.A.
Rabbi Grossman owned a summer camp in 1946.
My father belonged to Temple Elohim and an Orthodox synagogue. He went to the Orthodox synagogue on Yom Kippur and to Temple Elohim the rest of the year.
My mother was active in the Sisterhood and was president of her Hadassah group which met at the temple. I recall that she and the group knitted burgundy, khaki and many woolen sweaters for the Israeli soldiers in 1948.
They did not have Bat Mitzvahs at the synagogue. When I was 15 I had lessons with 8 other girls to have a confirmation on Shevuouth.
Temple Bikur Cholim was on Faile Street between Gilbert Place and Lafayette Avenue. It was an orange-bricked building, 2 floor, with an iron staircase on the outside leading to the Junior Congregation Service upstairs.
Rabbi Gorelick was our rabbi; a Rabbi Goldman used to assist in Hebrew School. I remember that Mr. Lifshitz was our Hebrew School teacher and that a Mr. Newman was a volunteer helping us incorrigibles at the service. I was one of those incorrigibles.
I was Bar Mitzvahed at the shul on Thursday, May 3, 1934 - with no formal lessons on how to read the haftorah. The reason it was on a Thursday was that my grandfather died less than two months before. So, promptly after the First Minyan was over, at 8:00 A.M., I walked to James Monroe High School about half an hour late for class, but happy. There was no such thing as a fancy bar mitzvah at that time. Sponge cake and honey cake were the prizes that morning.
Congregation Kneseth Israel
Congregation Shomre Torah
Fellowship Baptist Church
I attended Hebrew School and services at the Faile Street synagogue, where I was Bar Mitzvahed. There are many memories - all pleasant.
Children's services were held on Friday nights. Chocolate candy was distributed as you left the shul. A manager of Rockwood Candy was a member of the synagogue and contributed the candy. This was during the depression years so getting a piece of free candy was a great incentive for going to services. It certainly made for a sweet Sabbath.
After dressing for synagogue and often leading Junior Congregation, I would go home and change into play clothes. Then I could go out to play stickball.
Hebrew School inspired me to become part of the first Hebrew language class at Monroe High School in 1938. Jefferson High School was the first to teach Hebrew.
Many years ago, when I was a volunteer at the Daughters of Jacob, outsiders could go to shul there. Now, only residents are allowed to pray there.
Every Sunday they have a concert at the Home. There are Oneg Shabbats on Fridays. They have services on Rosh Hashonah and Yom Kippur as well as seders on Passover. They never charged me because I was a volunteer.
I remember visiting my parents who attended services for Rosh Hashanah at the Daughters of Jacob.
The shul was a very important part of our lives. My father would take me on all of the holidays. The children would run and play around the men downstairs. They tolerated us with good humor and would occasionally put their index fingers to their mouths so we would be quiet.
During the high holidays the men would be standing in small
groups outside the synagogue but the praying would go on all
day. When they returned to their seats they would ask,
holt men yetst? (
Where is the place?)
Rabbi Titkin went from house to house collecting money for charity.
He was always saying,
Leben is Zeece (Life is sweet.).
After we moved from the neighborhood I was still in the area because I taught in a school several blocks away. I went to the synagogue to say Yiskor on the days that I went to work.
The program for the Twenty-second Annual Banquet given on March 2, 1947 was written in both English and Yiddish.
Rabbi Dr. Lazar Schonfeld was installed in 1925. He was the former chief rabbi in Vincovci, Yugoslavia and Nagykaroly, Hungary. He was installed in 1925 and given a life contract in 1936.
Among the memories of the Fox Street synagogue are the women throwing down brown bags of candies after Bar Mitzvahs, Chanukah dreidels, singing Adon Alum, knowing the Saturday service almost by heart and forgetting my Bar Mitzvah speech and then improvising.
Unfortunately, I remember being chased by the Puerto Rican boys as we carried our Simchas Torah flags.
My son was Bar Mitzvahed at the Fox Street synagogue. We were very poor and the only social life was to go for a walk and visit family and neighbors.
The Rabbi was Rabbi Schoenfeld who spoke German-Yiddish. It was known as the Hungarian shul.
My parents belonged to this shul for 25 years. This was a Hungarian shul. The prayer books had Hebrew written on one page and Hungarian on the opposite page (Just as we now have English written on the opposite page). The sermons were in Hungarian.
Every adult needed a ticket to attend services on the High Holy Holidays. The young girls collected the tickets that were thrown away after the last service and used them to play games.
When I said Kaddish for my father, I attended Congregation Beth David on Fox Street. The rabbi was Lazar Schoenfeld who spoke a German Yiddish. A majority of the congregants were Hungarian.
The mechetunim and future second wife of one of my musicians lived at 830 Fox Street near Intervale. From your site I learned that this was (as of 1924) directly next door to the Hungarian Synagogue at 832 Fox Street.
I grew up in Brooklyn (I'm 59 now and my only direct connection with that neighborhood was the one year (1988/89) when I taught at a public school on Kelly Street. It was an overwhelmingly Hispanic neighborhood. There were only a very few poor, elderly Jews still living around there by that time.
Fulton Avenue Y. M. H. A. (Bronx Jewish Center)
Fulton Community Correctional Facility
There was an indoor track surrounding a full-sized basketball court on the top floor. A large synagogue was on the ground floor.
The men occupied the seats on the main floor and the women sat in the gallery. There were no pews attached to the floor. The men sat on folding chairs, which, when folded away, left the floor open for dancing on Wednesday and Saturday nights for young people. I met the young man who would be my husband at a Thanksgiving Day dance at the synagogue.
When I was 7 or 8, I remember going with other little girls on certain Sundays to sit in the main hall to create an audience for the public marriages. The children were given a handful of rice as they entered to pelt the bride and groom. Young women who did not have a family or who were too poor to make a wedding were married publicly by the rabbi. All the little girls watching were awed by the bride's beautiful white dress and veil (which, in retrospect, couldn't have been opulent). When the bride and groom walked down the aisle after the ceremony, we all threw rice and went home to dream of our wedding day.
This synagogue was a large 6 story building. I don't remember an elevator. Above the main floor were classrooms and clubrooms. Bible history was taught and liberal political discussions held. Several young men's clubs held meetings on Sunday afternoons. There was a gymnasium where boys played basketball. It was a place for young men and women to meet. In the summertime, dances were held on the rooftop which was surrounded by a high fence. There was live music and refreshments.
On the High Holy Days the synagogue was filled with people and there was an overflow on the streets. On Yom Kippur the weather was usually hot and sunny. There was no air conditioning. Several women would faint from the heat and the lack of food. There was always a commotion when they were carried out. There were sons and daughters who brought bouquets of flowers for their parents when they left the synagogue at the end of the day.
When there were funerals, the rabbi would preach outside on the top step of the synagogue and eulogize the deceased. The curious children listened and learned who had died and how wonderful he had been.
I grew up at a time when there was a gentler way of life - although we didn't recognize it as such at the time.
Rabbi Leo Shayorich was the rabbi. Judge Lashin was the president.
Young Israel holds fond memories for me. It was one of the few Orthodox congregations that educated young girls. I went to Hebrew School until the sixth grade. There was no such thing as a Bar Mitzvah for girls but I received and excellent education.
The rabbi was Rabbi Hoch.
I was in the Boy Scout Troop that carried the flag at the ground breaking ceremonies.
It was a small synagogue, where my sister and I went to Hebrew School and Saturday
services. In 1957 they opened a large beautiful edifice, which was just about the
time the neighborhood
I grew up on 166 and the Grand Concourse. In 1973 my family moved to the Pelham Parkway section. While taking the El into Manhattan, I had an urge to roam the South Bronx in my car with a camera and take pictures of all the abandoned, converted synagogues. Unfortunately, I never embarked on my idea. I did not have the money, nor the courage (remember what the city was like in the mid 70's), nor the resources to find the various synagogues. You can just imagine how thrilled I am by your work.
One note in connection with Young Israel of The Concourse (the one on the Concourse, not Walton Avenue). My late father was strongly rebuked by Rabbi Hoch when he tried to convince him that it was a waste of money to build the new building, that the heyday of the Concourse was about to end. This was only the late 50's and everyone thought my father was crazy. He was just prescient. One other thing about YI of the Concourse. The building on the Concourse my have had the first succah with an electronic roof which was closed during the rest of the year and when it rained too hard. The succah was a permanent structure with heat.
My grandfather was very involved in the Y.I. of the Concourse in the 1930s and I believe he was the editor of the newsletter. I have some of the finished newsletters and rough drafts he worked with.
Twins were visiting their grandparents and attending services during the Holy Days in
1976. One child said,
I want to go home to see the Brady Bunch. The grandmother
They aren't home. The children from the Brady Bunch went to shul.
I was confirmed at Adath Israel when Richard Tucker was the cantor.
My dad helped to start Adath Israel on the Grand Concourse. Rabbi Henry Schorr was the Rabbi and Richard Tucker was the cantor.
When I attended Adath Israel, Rabbi Schorr and Cantor Botashansky were there. The Masada Chapter met at the synagogue.
The one item that stands out in my mind was the children visiting their grandparents in the synagogue on Yom Kippur. The grandparents stayed in the synagogue all day and fasted. Children visited during the day, returned to hear the shofar blow at sundown and then walked home with their grandparents.
My father and several others helped found Adath Israel. At first we met and had Sunday School in a store somewhere off the Concourse.
At Adath Israel, the classrooms were not comfortable. They were created by movable partitions on the lower floor.
From the age of 16 I taught in the Sunday School. On the High Holy Days we were assigned
seats. We sat in the same row every year. When I was 13 or 14 we held the first
Confirmation service on Shevuouth. I was in that class. On holidays everyone paraded up
and down the Concourse in new finery. It was
the thing to do. Cantor Richard Tucker
officiated at my wedding in 1943. There was a social club for post confirmation teenagers.
Adath Israel was impressive and elegant. My sister was married there in 1932.
I remember fondly the grand, high-ceilinged sanctuary with its high benches. My father and my uncle sat together somewhere in the middle, and I have an image of coming to see them at intervals on the High Holidays. There was a stage at which I was too small to have my own ticket, and I remember family and friends taking turns using our tickets at brief intervals to attend the main service upstairs instead of the children's service. The tall, heavy doors to the vestibule and the ticket-taker and his excessive vigilance come to mind.
Rabbi Schorr was quite formal and stately, and set my image of what a clergyman should be like. Throughout, we benefited from the beautiful voice of cantor Mario Botashansky. This stately man, with his goatee, sang beautifully, and I have not heard the likes since in services all over the world. The choir sang from behind a screened balcony over the ark, so I never saw them, nor did I see the organist. But I do recall the choir's Irish tenor, whose voice soared over the sanctuary.
I spent many afternoons in the Hebrew school. Mr. Markson was the principal and the best and most erudite teacher was Mr. Gutman. They were refugees and we benefited from their tragedy. Would that my daughters could have had their Hebrew education from teachers who knew as much.
I wanted to learn how to conduct a service and went one day to Junior Congregation determined to take notes so that I could remember the order. But as soon as I took out my pen and notepad, I was reminded (sternly, as I recall) that I couldn't write there on Shabbos. So I put the pen and pad away, and soon went away myself. I never did lead a service. I don't recall anybody in the congregation who kept kosher or who didn't ride or write on Saturday. That just wasn't Conservative Judaism, in Bronx, circa 1956 (my Bar Mitzvah year).
Those were happy times. Who was to know that it wouldn't go on forever?
My family moved to the West Bronx in 1933 when I was 5. Henry Schorr was my rabbi until I moved away from New York in 1952. Louis Lipitz was the cantor, followed by Reuben Tucker who went on to become Richard Tucker of the Met, followed by Mario Botoshansky.
At Adath Israel we were exposed to an organ and mixed voice choir. I can remember as a child how impressed I was with the choir in mortar boards and academic robes, how impressed I was with the officers dressed in top hats, swallow tail coats and striped pants. One of Rabbi Schorr's dreams was to have a proper Hebrew School and unilaterally he committed the congregation to the purchase of a lot that was one huge boulder to the immediate west of the synagogue. There was a faction that felt he had overstepped his authority, which he had, and a mass congregational meeting was held. He prevailed and the Board of Directors resigned with a new Board being voted into office. To build the school, the boulder had to be dynamited to clear the land.
The temple was a bar mitzvah factory. Often there would be 2,3 or even 4 bar mitzvahs on a Shabbat.
The Sunday School was enormous with most of the children lining up once a month before classes commenced to pay $1.00 tuition, which was charged per pupil, per month.
While my parents would attend the service with organ and choir all year, on the High Holy Days they would get seats at the alternative service held in the social hall which followed a more traditional form without music.
In his later years, my father led the services. My mother was president of the sisterhood 3 times for a total of 17 years.
The only reason Richard Tucker left Adath Israel to go to Brooklyn Jewish Center was the Board would not approve a $500 increase in his pay.
Richard Tucker was the cantor at my wedding. Several years later, when my younger sister wanted him to be the cantor at her wedding, Richard Tucker's agent wanted, as a favor, $500. which was too much money. Cantor Botoshansky and Rabbi Schorr conducted the ritual.
I attended Zichron Moshe and then Akiba Hebrew Academy for several years (between 1958-1962) and my grandfather was Louis Lipitz, famous cantor and associated with Temple Adath Israel before Richard Tucker took his place.
Congregation Gan Eden Temple
Fountain Spring Baptist Church
Sinai Congregation of the Bronx
It was a small temple in a little private house. Because we were a
small temple everyone knew each other. There were 200 to 250 families
at the most. We were called,
Sinai, The Friendly Temple.
My husband and I were members from 1950 to 1977 when the synagogue was sold.
My two daughters attended Sunday School for three hours on Sunday morning. They learned to read Hebrew as well as children in Orthodox and Conservative synagogues.
We had a social hall in the basement where the Bar Mitzvah celebrations were held.
After Friday evening services, Rabbi Saville would ask from the
Do all the ladies have rides home?
In 1977 the temple disbanded and whatever members were left joined Sinai Temple of Mount Vernon.
I was Bar Mitzvah there and went to confirmation class. In 1946 I was married there.
My brother and I were very active in the Junior League and we ran many socials and dances at the synagogue.
My husband and I were active members for 15 years. Before we moved to Florida the Sisterhood tendered a wonderful farewell party during a Friday evening service.
When the Tremont Temple building was sold, we gave the plaques to Scarsdale Reform Temple.
We ran a Bingo game at the Temple. We made $25,000 a year. The workers got tired so we stopped.
A Senior Citizens' Center was started in the building. The city paid the temple $15,000 a year in rent. We had plenty of money but the neighborhood changed and we didn't have enough people.
I remember that the cantor used to fall asleep during the services.
A group of us did not want to lose our friendship when the Tremont Temple closed. We formed a charity group and have just celebrated our thirtieth anniversary.
Services on Friday night were beautiful. There was a mob on the High Holidays.
My most memorable reminiscence was my father's reaction to the Reform religious service. In spite of his criticisms, I knew he enjoyed the services, the music and the singing. He continued to attend reform services after he moved from the Bronx.
I was disturbed by the fact that the rabbi left the rabbinate to affiliate himself with his father-in-law in the business world.
We belonged to the Concourse Center of Israel which was Orthodox. We lived next door to the Tremont Temple. It was reform and the attendees were more elegantly dressed and more impressive than those at the Concourse Center. My family's comments included those about those 'Chazzer fressers'.
In a New York Times article titled,
Tremont Temple Quits the Bronx,
dated December 17, 1976, an early member of the Tremont Temple says,
I remember my brother and I being the only Jews in P.S. 56 on Hull
Avenue and having to say we were sick to explain why we stayed home on
the high holy days.
On the nearest Saturday to October 8, 1928, I became Bar-Mitzvah in the Tremont Temple. The rabbi who performed the ceremony was Dr. Irving Reichert, who, I understand, later moved to California.
My husband, now 87 years old, was Bar-mitzvahed at the Tremont Temple. He thinks that the rabbi at the time was Rabbi Levy. The rabbi was extremely well dressed and a very pleasant man.
The only other recollection he has was that the temple had a
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. His older
brother played the handsome prince and he was one of the seven
dwarfs holding a shovel.
Sam Minskoff, the real estate mogul, was the chairman of the building committee. The synagogue was Orthodox but the men and women sat on the same level.
I went to Hebrew School at the synagogue. This was two afternoons and a Sunday morning which covered bible history (which I enjoyed).
During the High Holidays my father attended services and, as a preteenager, I would visit and sit with him periodically (This was not my bag.).
The first year, services for the High Holidays were held in a tent.
The synagogue accommodated 1500 people for services during the High Holidays. The Hebrew School had 175 students and 4 teachers.
The Dedication Program describes the laying of the cornerstone in 1921. Among the dignitaries was Mayor Hylan, Borough President Bruckner, Judge Gibbs, County Clerk Moran and Assemblyman Antin. Cantor Josef Rosenblatt led the choir.
At a time when most sermons were in Yiddish the Montefiore Center had its sermons in English.
Rabbi Jacob Katz was also the Jewish Chaplain at Sing Sing Prison.
I remember going to Hebrew School between 1933 and 1935. How afraid
we were of Rabbi Katz. If you stepped out of line you got a good
After the Bar Mitzvah my parents had the reception at Hoffman's Restaurant on Longwood near Prospect. About two thirds of the way into the lunch my father asked me for the envelopes I had collected. He needed the money to pay for the meal. Those were lean years for my family.
Back in twenties my father served on the Board of Montefiore Hebrew Congregation. He was always so proud of that synagogue.
There was a small memorial plaque for the Strausses who went down with the Titanic.
Clifford Odets lived on Longwood and Beck Streets.
Boys and girls were confirmed together on Shevuouth when I attended in the late twenties.
There was a minyon for preteenagers in the basement. If someone was late he had to start from the beginning.
Tachlis was held at the Bronx River. People had to walk through a Christian neighborhood to get there. Anti-semitism was rampant after Work War II.. Jews carried siddurs in brown paper bags when they went to services.
I was Bar Mitzvahed at an Orthodox shul. We had no Hebrew School so my parents sent me to Montefiore for Hebrew School. I hope that I shall always remember the dynamic force of Rabbi Katz.
Rabbi Katz delivered a major sermon every Friday night. One night in particular was outstanding. The previous evening (Thursday) the rabbi acted as chaplain at a Sing Sing execution. A Jew had been put to death - Lepke Buchalter - but still a Jew. This was an unheard of affair in our generation. I can still see Rabbi Katz's contorted face, fingers and arms outstretched, body weaving and crying at this shame.
Rabbi Katz didn't demand respect. It was given to him. Once, while he was walking down the aisle toward the pulpit, a male stranger rose in his seat as the rabbi passed. The rabbi turned sideways, stared and snapped, 'I don't believe in that humbug'.
On Saturday mornings only the older members performed torah services. Therefore, we were excused and allowed to play stickball in the street. At the conclusion of the torah services, Rabbi Katz would come out on the stoop. That was the automatic signal to stop. We returned and finished the service.
Every Saturday afternoon we had a pre-mincha study time. We studied the torah portion of the week. During the winter we studied indoors and during the summer we sat on the fire escape. Mincha was our service. Each young man could be a cantor. We performed the entire service. Rabbi Katz would question the leader about the religious topic of the week. I don't recall anyone being embarrassed by the rabbi's request.
Hebrew School was held two afternoons a week at Montefiore while on Sundays we traveled to Haaren High School in Manhattan for a 9:00 to 1:00 session.
Weekday afternoons, Mr. Zaretsky - conservatively dressed, brown horn rimmed glasses - typical professional teacher was a melamed with class. He tried. He was a peace loving, humane person whose anger was noticed only when a student took too long to grasp what was being taught. Think of a sweet cello and you've got the picture.
On Sundays the exciting spirit of Zionism was the main feature. There was history, song and dance.
I was given a
blue box to collect money on the streets in that area
for charity. I only collected a dime but saw another child receive
many coins that went into her box. I went back to the rabbi in tears
with only ten cents in my blue box. The rabbi put in some coins and
Don't cry. All the money goes to the same place. That
satisfied my feelings.
The Montefiore Synagogue was Reform. On Rosh Hashonah, Rabbi Katz ended services in time for the congregants to eat lunch. The Orthodox synagogues in the neighborhood ended their services at 4:00 P.M.
I said kaddish for my father in that shul.
One of my friends was married in the shul and we were invited. It wasn't fancy but people didn't have much money then.
My most vivid memory was being called to minyon by the Shamos, a large kindly man we called Mr. Friesel. He would come to the porch and knock on the window , usually for Friday evening services. I dreaded his call, but I went.
A few weeks before the High Holidays, Mr. Friesel would give me a quarter to distribute advertising circulars soliciting shul goers to attend his shul for the Holiday Services.
I went to Hebrew school at the shul. We had no money, so my mother made arrangements to pay a dollar or two, when we had it, for going three times a week.
I had two teachers in the Cheder. One was a distinguished, dark man who always wore a black suit. His name was Rabbi Solomon Wind. His wife died at that time, since I recall he grew a beard. Someone explained to us that it was part of the shiva ritual. The second teacher was Mr. Katznelson. He went by the name of Nelson.
I was bar-mitzvah in this shul. I read the entire torah section and the Haftorah. Rabbi Wind wrote a speech which I delivered in Yiddish. I recall getting quarters from my friends and my relatives presented me with one or two dollars. I gave everything to my mother.
Services were held in the basement until 1914 when the remainder of the three story building was completed.
Bible Church of Christ
Congregation Ansche Zedek
Sons of Israel
Yeshivath Zichron Moshe
Zichron Moshe was the name of a World War II soldier. His parents had the synagogue named after him. They paid for the synagogue.
Rabbi Samuels had no children. He adopted a baby from Palestine.
On Simchas Torah children went to the synagogue
hopping. This was a German custom.
There was a Sephardic synagogue on the top floor. The space was rented from the Orthodox synagogue on the lower floor. I was Bar Mitzvahed at the Sephardic synagogue.
The synagogue was on the basement level and quite large, accommodating at least 400 people, while the women's balcony held at least another hundred.
I attended cheder for some years. I managed to learn nothing in class but it had a lasting influence on my life for one reason. All cheder students were required to attend Shabbos services. On a typical Shabbos, about 200 children were in attendance. We were taught all the important melodies and we felt we were carrying a large part of the service.
During Torah reading we went to the chapel and Mr. Wyler, one of the teachers, told us stories.
We continued attending long after we left cheder. Finally, we organized ourselves into the
Adath Ha-Bar Mitzvot. Two boys attended Yeshivah and one or the other read from the
torah each week. All of us were able to lead the service. In later years, when I lived in
one or another small mid-western town where there was no rabbi this experience proved invaluable.
Around 1933 the congregation decided to build a larger synagogue over the old building. Money proved an endless problem. It took about 2 years to complete.
The principal jobs of the shammes were to read the torah and to bang on the
Amod to quiet
the noisy congregants. His reading of the torah was unintelligible and my contemporaries made
fun of him.
There was a minyon three times a day. On weekday mornings there were two, one at 6:00 for those who had to go to work early and a later one for people who had more time.
My father was a member of Congregation Moishe Zadek. It was a strictly Orthodox Synagogue. I did not attend Hebrew School. Years ago, girls were not bas-mitzvahed.
The congregation on Morris Avenue was my father's favorite. It was more
old- fashioned and
appeared to run closer to the strict laws of the Orthodox Jewish religion.
Rabbi Hollander was the first American Rabbi to go to Russia after World War II.
We held our boy scout meetings in the gymnasium of the Mount Eden Center.
The synagogue had a balcony for the women and a domed stained glass roof. My family and I were members from 1930 to 1950.
I remember that the Cantor was Abner Sobol and the rabbi was David Hollander.
My grandmother was a founder and received a certificate from the members for her work. The Rabbi was David Hollander who had just gotten married and received a life time contract. He moved into our private house and became our tenant. He helped in the burial of my grandmother who was taken into the synagogue to honor her. He also officiated at my son's bar-mitzvah and my husband's burial. I am now 80 years old.
I went to Mount Eden Jewish Center for many years. My teachers were Mr. Strauss, Rabbi Pinchas Twersky, and Rabbi David B. Hollander. Thank you for helping me recall some of my great Bronx past.
We had a beautiful shul. There was a small worship place (a bas amidrash) in the basement and a large room and an arch on the street level. All organizations met there. The most affluent people were members. I had gold plaque put up for my husband in his memory.
I lived in the apartment on the third floor of the building next to the synagogue.
I wonder what happened to the remembrance plaques that were on the wall. My parents' names were on the plaques.
There were over 300 children in the Talmud Torah.
There was an active sisterhood which raised from $7,000 to $10,000 a year. There were card parties, luncheons and bazaars.
At the beginning, women sat upstairs but later everyone sat together. The synagogue changed with the times.
I was Bar Mitzvahed at the Jewish Center of Highbridge in 1964 by Rabbi Nathan Taragin.
I remember the great expansion of the Center - a temple auditorium addition, Hebrew School classrooms, etc.
In the 1940s I attended and graduated from the afternoon school. During that period, our rabbi was Rabbi Rabinowitz.
The rabbi was Rabbi Tarragon. My children went to Hebrew School and my son started before we moved to Coop City. A few of our friends and neighbors never treated us equally with people who lived in the other part of the community like Noonan Plaza, etc.
Congregation Adath Jeshurin of West Bronx
Congregation Yeshivath Rabbi Isak Leifer
Iglesia Pentecostal Nazaret
When the synagogue was sold the torahs, prayer books and other religious items were donated to a senior citizens center called Palisades Gardens in Palisades, New York.
This was an Orthodox German congregation. They had a typical German service. There was never a rabbi. Reverend Plaut led the congregation. He was more knowledgeable than the rest of the congregation.
Beth Hamedrosh Hagadol of University Heights
Seventh Day Adventist School
My children were born in 1939, 1940 and 1945 and to this day refer to
having spent the
best years of their life in the neighborhood and at
the synagogue. We attended all the happy occasions of our friends'
children at the synagogue.
My maternal grandparents, Rabbi Israel and Rachel Movshowitz (Mowshowitz) were the founders/organizers of the Synagogue in 1941. I believe my grandfather passed away in 1942, when I was about 4 years of age. My uncle, Rabbi Joseph Mowshowitz then assumed the leadership role of the Synagogue. I actually lived in Indiana as a child but moved to 1651 Popham Ave. with my mother after my parents were divorced in 1945. At that time, the upstairs of the building was a rental apartment and we lived on the ground floor which was partially a Synagogue and the rest was living quarters. I remember as a young child sitting in the kitchen on "Yom Kippur" eating while peering through the doorway at people sitting in the Synagogue. A few years later the ground floor was remodeled to be a Synagogue in its entirety and we moved upstairs.
I recall there being morning and evening services daily in the Synagogue attended primarily by elderly residents of the neighborhood but occasionally (after my Bar Mitzvah) I would be summoned from a "stickball" game outside to help make up a "minyon". I have many fond memories of those years and especially recall the sermons being given in "Yiddish" , women sitting in a separate section, one of my non-Jewish friends coming in after Friday night services and turning off the lights and turning them on again early Saturday morning.
I lived there until I went away to college in 1954 and spent some vacations at home until I graduated in 1958 and have never been back to the old neighborhood since.
My only remembrance relates to my visits to the shul with my
grandfather. He would stay with us on occasion, and in those
instances he would take me to Sabbath services where he had me up on
bimah to take part in the Kiddish ritual. This was some
adventure for a young one. I don't think I was so much impressed by
the riligiosity of the moment as I was with the opportunity of sipping
the wine and taking part in the oneg shabbat that followed.
I remember going there as a child but that was about it. They still have a section of plots at Beth David Cemetery located on Elmont Road, Elmont, Long Island.
I went to the Hunts Point Jewish Center where Rabbi David Savitz was the spiritual leader. He was very vibrant and more Americanized than other rabbis. He seemed as we would call it today, Conservative and much more to my liking.
Rabbi Savitt was most energetic and colorful and an extremely dynamic speaker.
I can remember him speaking to a packed synagogue on Kol Nidre night where you could hear a pin drop, it was so hushed and still. And when he raised his voice to shout, it seemed as though the huge lolly columns and pillars were virtually trembling and vibrating.
Rabbi David Savitt, I believe, left the Temple to become the head of Salante Yeshiva in the Pelham section.
Congregation Hak'nesseth Shearith Israel
Congregation Mishkenoth Israel
Iglesia Christiana Roca Eterna
There was a mikvah in the building. It was the only one in the area.
My nephew was Bar Mitzvahed at the synagogue. I was not a member but I bought tickets for the holidays and went to services regularly.
There was a Beth Hamedrash (house of learning) in the basement. The group met daily.
We had different groups - a chevra kadisha (a funeral committee) and a chevra mishnayoth ( a group to study traditional law - biblical commentaries).
Those were the days of real Orthodox synagogues. People cared for each other and had time to study torah. Now, everyone is too busy. No one has time.
We were not observant Jews but I attended on Simchat Torah.
Children were given chocolate to entice them to attend services on Saturday.
I taught at P.S. 39 on Longwood Avenue during the 1950s. I went to the synagogue on Southern Boulevard to say Yiskor.
A Mikvah was installed while I was still a youngster. The rabbi at the time was Rabbi Judah Altusky. When Rabbi Altusky left, Rabbi Miller came to the congregation. He was a very dynamic and dramatic rabbi.
I was the only girl in my class for 4 years and attended services every Saturday. I loved it but I could never lead Junior Services because I was a girl. I was the only one of my friends who attended Hebrew School and was one of the few women of my generation who could daven. I very much resented that my twin brother, who botched it and had to be tutored for his bar mitzvah, had a bar mitzvah and I couldn't do an hoftorah or be recognized because I was a girl in an orthodox family. Mr. Zimmer was my Hebrew School teacher.
In 1939-1940 I attended an orthodox storefront synagogue on Tinton Avenue. I was completely ignored because I was girl. The following year I was registered at Sinai Temple Sunday School (Reform) on Stebbins Avenue. That was a very positive experience where the rabbi taught songs, related bible stories and welcomed my mother and me to Friday night services.
I was one of the first boys to be Bar Mitzvahed at the synagogue when it was opened in 1925.
The bima was in the center of the synagogue. I made my speech from there. In fact, I still remember my speech (The respondent, now 76 years of age, recited the opening lines.). There were no classrooms at the synagogue. An old rabbi with payas came to our house three times a week to give me Bar Mitzvah lessons.
Men and women sat separately. There was no balcony so the women sat on the same level.
Services were held in a tent on Andrews Avenue until the synagogue was occupied.
Rabbi Simon Kramer was the rabbi. He came from a Chicago Yeshiva and later returned to Chicago. The rabbi started a yeshiva at the synagogue.
There were over 1500 people who attended Rosh Hashonah and Yom Kippur services. Services were held upstairs and in the basement on the holidays. Children's services were held downstairs on Saturdays.
My boys were Bar Mitzvahed at the Institute.
When we disbanded, the congregation gave the building away to a drug rehabilitation center rather than sell it to a church.
The bima was in the center of the synagogue. The man who read the torah was a rabbi from Europe.
My father was one of the founders and was its president for a long time. My husband was also president for several years. I was married there and my two sons were Bar Mitzvahed there.
The Hebrew Institute is now located in Riverdale (The Bronx) at 3700 Henry Hudson Parkway East and is led by Rabbi Avraham Weiss.
I received my Hebrew training and was Bar Mitzvahed at the Hebrew Institute. The temple was beautiful. I attended from 1956-1960. Mr. Weinglas was the Hebrew School Principal.
Although I disliked attending Hebrew School after regular school, I am somewhat grateful that I can read Hebrew, and to this day, I appreciate the depth and beauty of Judaism.
I remember the very large tent on Tremont and Andrews Avenue that was used for the High Holy Days before the synagogue was built.
My grandfather bought the golden key to open the doors at the dedication of the building. My father blew the shofar there until his death.
Rabbi Kramer was the second rabbi there. Almost all the young women in our family were married there by Rabbi Kramer. The public schools were so overcrowded (no date was given as to the exact year) that parents appealed to Rabbi Kramer to start a day school. The building was large with many classrooms, gym, kitchen, etc. After considerable negotiations with the Board of Education, Akiba Academy was founded with only a kindergarten. Each year another grade was added until it had a full eight year school. Akiba still exists in Riverdale.
The last time I saw the Institute I cried as it was neglected, windows were broken and graffiti was all over the building.
I have many wonderful memories of the Hebrew Institute and its people.
I was chairman of the board of Akiba Hebrew Academy for 18 years.
Salanter Yeshiva, Riverdale Hebrew Academy and Akiba combined to form SAR Academy in Riverdale. We purchased the Toscanini estate and erected the present building.
I remember the morning of my Bar Mitzvah. I lived in 1911 University Avenue. The rabbi lived in 1895. My father took my brother and me and we started to walk up the block to the shul. While we were walking, I saw the rabbi who was walking with his son and his elderly father (also a rabbi). Naturally, the rabbi's father walked very slowly. I, in my excitement, wanted to get to shul. I remember my father pulling me back and making sure we walked slowly behind the rabbi. When I asked for an explanation, he said that the rabbi was very important and he didn't want to show disrespect by arriving before him.
I loved the High Holy Holidays because the
whole world used to
come. Once I became a teenager, I never went inside the shul. I
loved seeing the kids and adults from all over who I hadn't seen
all year. In the afternoon we would walk to other synagogues in
the area and get a chance to meet new kids.
I remember, when I was about 8 or 9 years old, visiting my uncle
Morris, who was a vice president in the shul. He had his
and I would come up and sit with him for awhile. I remember men
opening snuff boxes, giving me candy and feeling that I was
swallowed up in the giant tallaisem. I liked listening to the
rabbi's sermons. It was a great social studies lesson.
I was raised in the Bronx and went to Hebrew School and was
Bar-Mitzvahed in Hebrew Institute of University Heights. The rabbi was
Rabbi Kramer and the chazan was
Cooper (I don't know his first
name.) I was Bar-Mitzvahed in April, 1937.
My most moving memories were of Cantor Flussberg. He had a marvelous voice and when he hit a high note, the chandeliers vibrated.
We have wonderful memories of the Hebrew School teachers. My children's favorite was Mrs. Saltz who retired and went to live in Israel.
There are many former members who still maintain a friendship though we left the area more than 25 years ago.
I was Bar-Mitzvahed at Hebrew Institute. My family were members from
1923 until after the end of World War II. The rabbi was Simon Kramer
for all those years. Our president at that time was Max Schneider,
who later became president of the Bronx. I still feel a bit nostalgic
good old days when some of the worshipers would walk up
and down the center aisle and doven along with the Chazen
I remember that Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed our rabbi (Simon G. Kramer) as an ambassador of a sort during the late 1930s to help relocate Hitler's outcast Jews.
At about age 8 my parents enrolled me in the Pelham Parkway Jewish Center, 900 Pelham Parkway. I remember my teacher's name as Mrs. Brind (I have it written in a prayer book that was distributed to all the students). I still have the book in my home library.
To the best of my recollection, this was a conservative Synagogue. It was a formidable edifice and a 4 block walk from our home on Holland Avenue.
At the end of the 1st year in class, my parents transferred me to Cong Ohel Moishe, Wallace Ave., just around the corner from our apartment house. This was an old time Shul, Orthodox and located in a storefront. It was the Shul my Grandfather belonged to.
The leader of the Shul was Rabbi Klien. He was a no nonsense Rabbi, if you spoke out of turn or were not paying attention, he had no qualms about giving you a love tap with his rubber tipped wooden pointer. You either learned your lessons or you went home with red welts from his love taps.
My Bar Mitzvah was held on a Thursday, it was less costly and supposed to be a good day as there was Torah reading on Thursdays. My mom and sisters really did not have a good view of me on the Bema as they sat on the other side of a white curtain used to separate the men and women.
The 4 years I spent at this Shul and with Rabbi Klein, were years I will never forgot. It was an old time Jewish education, no pomp or fanfare.
I'm sorry to learn that the Shul is no longer in existence and that the facility it has been converted to a business.
Rabbi Kahn, who was the rabbi from 1959-1964, attempted to revitalize the congregation. He started a post Bar Mitzvah group called the Minyonaires. Among other things, they took trips to the Jewish Museum, had brunch on the Lower East Side and staged plays for the congregation. There were 36 boys in the group.
Mrs. Schiller was a Hebrew School teacher. If a student misbehaved, she would keep his shoe until 6:00 P.M. when school was over.
On the Jewish holidays, people congregated in the park north of the Court House.
I went to Hope of Israel for the holidays to hear the Shofar blowing. My mother, who didn't know what she was reading, went to services regularly.
I live at the Concourse Plaza which is now a Senior Citizens residence. I go to the synagogue every Saturday.
Rabbi Kahn had classes in Hebrew and Bible Study for adults. He loved music and had the congregation sing. Instead of a choir, the congregation was the choir.
There was a kiddush every Saturday. We were one big happy family.
Judge Levy was very active in the synagogue.
A Senior Citizens Center in there now. Lunches are served and there are various activites such as painting and music.
When President Kennedy died, Rabbi Kahn made an outstanding eulogy. It was a memorable occasion.
Rabbi Kahn made many changes when he came. The congregation spent a lot of money for improvements. I remember his saying, 'When I came to this synagogue we had a big bank account. Now we have a big debt'.
Rabbi Kahn moved to Long Island when he left the Hope of Israel.
local custom that should not go unmentioned: On the High
Holidays, everyone dressed up and went to the synagogue. Then,
everyone went to Joyce Kilmer Park, which turned into a parade of
fur coats, suits and high heels. The young children climbed the
rocks and played in the fountain area. The older kids talked and
flirted. The adults sat on the benches.
My mother still sends a donation every year, although we are not officially members.
I loved going to Junior Congregation on Saturdays. Somewhere, I believe I still have a sticker book proclaiming my attendance. This was probably during 1959-1963.
Being near Yankee Stadium, there was the once a year appearance of Mel Allen at Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur.
Jim Scheuer, when he represented our district, would occasionally show up for Shachrit on Shabbat. And there were various judges and lawyers from across the street whose names (other than George Goodstein) I don't recall who also attended.
I recall when President Kennedy was shot, Rabbi Kahn gave a eulogy. In fact, I think he delivered it 2 or 3 times that day. There wasn't a dry eye in the house. The event and the speaker met and caused a cataclysmic flow of tears. I still have a printed copy of the speech.
My formative years were spent at Congregation Hope of Israel. I had my bar-mitzvah there in 1961 and my Ufruf in 1970. I thought Rabbi Kahn was the greatest speaker. I recall when President Kennedy was shot, Rabbi Kahn gave the eulogy - In fact he delivered it two or three times that day. There wasn't a dry eye in the house - the event and the speaker met and caused a cataclysmic flow of tears.
I received my introduction to Politics 101 lessons at the Hope of Israel. The President of the synagogue was Leonard Fastenberg who was a city councilman. I worked for him during the primary elections one summer. My work consisted of being at the 161st Street subway and el stations and handing out his literature from 6:30 A.M. to 8:30 A.M. The pay was 50 cents an hour.
Being near Yankee Stadium, there was also the once a year appearance by Mel Allen at Rosh Hashonah or Yom Kippur.
When I was growing up, money was always being raised to build a new Young Israel to replace the building. Finally, a new larger building was erected on the Grand Concourse. Now, the synagogue we built from all the money we raised isn't even a synagogue - it's a museum.
I was member of the Junior group for a few years until my interest in religion waned.
Young Israel was a small shul when I attended. Because of its limited seating capacity, the shul held High Holy Day services at the Concourse Plaza. A part of the service each year (for twenty years) was an appeal for money for a new building.
I went to say Yiskor in a downpour. I knew I shouldn't bring an umbrella to the synagogue. When I entered I put it in a corner near the front entrance. When I left after the service, the umbrella was gone.
On the holy days there were services
downstairs (the less
expensive seats) and
upstairs which my parents attended.
My father made frequent trips to the women's balcony because, I suspect, he became restless as the service dragged on.
I seem to remember there was always a man with a window pole who tried endlessly, but in vain, to satisfy the women, some of whom wanted the window open, while others preferred it closed.
The rabbi's name was Molitan. He had three daughters. His wife now lives in Jerusalem.
We always had a large turnout but in the 1970s people moved to Co-op City. The Young Israel of University Heights on Townsend Avenue sold their building and joined our membership.
In 1975 we had to sell our building. It was painful. When we sold the shul everyone wanted money for their favorite institution. We gave money to Rabbi Molitan as well as Rabbi Greenberg, who came to us from Young Israel.
We gave money to Young Israel in Israel as well as to some yeshivahs. In one case, we sent a check to a yeshivah in Israel by travelers who visited there and the check cleared before we could cover it. The check bounced. A former member took the siddurim and the plaques were given to other synagogues. We sold several religious articles to a member who moved to Muncie and found he made a profit. The few remaining people in the neighborhood went to minyon at Temple Zion on the Concourse.
Prior to World War I the congregation met at Our Savior Church on Washington Avenue and 183rd Street. One of the members went to Father Duffy, the priest who was the pastor of the church, to ask that Catholics not pick on the Jews. The Father suggested that the congregation open their own synagogue.
I grew up on Washington and 180th Street, I went to P.S. 59 for kindergarten and St. Joseph's School for grades 1-8. In your involvement with Aquinas College, you may have rubbed elbows with a Sister Marion Louise (she may also go by her real name), a Sparkill Dominican nun. Sr. Marion was an amazing authority on the local history of the village of Tremont and she told me an extraordinary story. She said that the building that was home to Zeire Jacob was originally St. Joseph's Church. When the parish expanded and needed a larger church, Rev. Peter Farrell had the present St. Joseph's building constructed on Bathgate Avenue. Rev. Farrell later sold the old church to a fur merchant, who was known as Fox the furrier to house a Jewish congregation.
The memorial plaques were moved to New Rochelle when the Center was closed.
During the year men and women sat together. During the holidays they sat separately.
When I was three years old I went to Essex Street with my mother to buy material for the Sisterhood Bazaar. My mother gave a big donation because I went along.
My son was Bar Mitzvahed at the shul on Plimpton Avenue because my husband was angry with the rabbi. When my husband was sick the rabbi didn't visit him.
After Yom Kippur, we kids collected the no-longer needed Rosh Hashonah - Yom Kippur admission tickets from the congregants. We liked the multi-colored tickets.
Paul Striker gave me a bible as a gift for my bar-mitzvah. I don't remember his position at the Jewish Center.