Every book of non-fiction should have a purpose. As the research for the book unfolds, the purpose expands to include broader vistas.
Originally, the reason for this book was to preserve the history of synagogues and other Jewish institutions that once thrived in the South Bronx. A photographic survey and some brief historical data would provide a pictorial account of the present status of the synagogue buildings as well as the original name and date of organization of each congregation.
As the research progressed, the purpose was broadened. Synagogues are only buildings made of brick and mortar. People of the congregation make a synagogue come to life. There was a need for a human dimension. Letters were sent to numerous Jewish publications in the United States asking former residents of the South Bronx to send personal impressions of the synagogues they attended. The response was gratifying and this material was incorporated in to the book.
Bernard Wax, Director of the American Jewish Historical Society, suggested that information about all the synagogues in The Bronx should be included. No one had ever gathered this information and this would be an important contribution to American Jewish history. Consequently, an exhaustive survey of Jewish religious institutions in the entire borough is hereby presented.
The goal or purpose that transcends all the others is to encourage people to duplicate this research elsewhere and thereby preserve the histories of Jewish communities in other sections of the United States.
Preface - Fourth Edition
The second and third edition of the book both expanded the number of synagogues from the original. This edition brings an expansion of information, history and details for some of the synagogues and explains how to access information about others.
In 1939 the Federal Writers Project (FWP) of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) conducted a survey of all known houses of worship in the United States. You will find the introduction to the FWP and the list of synagogues that existed in the Bronx in 1939 in the addendum. The author has added 74 synagogue record forms to the fourth edition.
Each record form contains eighteen details about each organization listed and the 1939 status of these synagogues. Information about the remaining synagogues can at this time be found in the New York City Municipal Archives, 311 Chambers Street, Room 103.
The WPA survey lists synagogues in alphabetical order by name, whereas this book lists synagogues in alphabetical order by address. If you know only the address of a synagogue, you can use this book to locate its name, and then use that name to access the WPA data. For example, you can look for the synagogue at 768 Hewitt Place to see that its name is Montefiore Center. Than you would check the WPA listing under that name to find more details about this synagogue.
A particular time and place in the history of a people is by nature ephemeral, with a tendency to disappear before our eyes. The author reported in the Preface to the Third Edition that the number of active synagogues in the Bronx had dwindled to about 40. By the time of this writing, that number has dwindled to about 35.
This book has been a labor of love; an attempt by one individual to help preserve the history of an important and rich time and place in the Jewish American experience. Hopefully this book will provide the reader a window into how the secular and religious life of Jews were woven together into seamless tapestry that defined the culture and civilization of the Jewish South Bronx.
Preface - Third Edition
The third edition is an expanded and updated version of the original.
Information for the 89 synagogues in the Northern and Eastern Sections of the Bronx is in this edition, along with numerous building photographs. The book now includes every Bronx tax exempt synagogue (active and inactive) that the author found in the records. There are now approximately 40 active synagogues in these sections. There is no way to get an exact number. Several have no rabbi, a couple have services on Saturday only, some haven't enough to pay a secretary or anyone to answer the telephone, a good number have answering machines, and several have a telephone with no answering machine. In one situation a congregation sold its building and moved in with another congregation. Of one thing we can be sure, the number of Jews in these sections of the Bronx is dwindling.
As far as the South Bronx synagogues are concerned, only two are functioning, the Daughters of Jacob on Findlay Avenue and Congregation Mount Horab on Stebbins Avenue.
Many readers asked about purchasing a hard (paper) copy of the book. The publisher has said the cost would be prohibitive. One of the reasons for online publication was the matter of money. Remembrance is a self published book.
There have been thousands of visits to the Remembrance home page and hundreds of responses. Many of the questions were about "missing" synagogues (most of which were found in other sections of the Bronx.) The second most frequently asked question was about purchasing the book. Other questions were related to specific synagogues. Some questions, when the author knew the answer, were responded to immediately, some needed research, and, in some instances, the information was impossible to find. Several respondents wrote that they were officers in their synagogue and would help if anyone had questions.
There were many letters that included Personal Impressions. Most were very good. They have been added to the book at this time. The research on synagogues in the North and East Bronx has been time consuming. They are included in this edition with the Personal Impressions that are received between now and the next publication.
Thank you and for your interest in contributing to (through our collective memories) and preserving Jewish history.