Oldest Synagogues in the United States
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Oldest Synagogues in the United States
The designation of the oldest synagogue in the United States requires careful use of definitions, and must be divided into two parts, the oldest in the sense of oldest surviving building, and the oldest in the sense of oldest congregation. Even here, there is the distinction between old synagogue buildings that have been in continuous use as synagogues, and those that have been converted to other purposes, between buildings that have been in continuous use as synagogues and those, such as the Touro, that were shuttered for many decades, and between early established congregations that have been in continuous existence and early congregations that ceased to exist.
All of the oldest congregations in the new world were founded by Sephardi Jews and followed the Sephardic liturgy.
- Congregation Shearith Israel, founded in 1654, in New York City, is the oldest congregation in the United States. Its present building dates from 1897.
- Congregation Jeshuat Israel, founded circa 1658, in Newport, Rhode Island, is dated to sometime after the arrival of Jews in 1658 and prior to the 1677 purchase of a communal cemetery, now known as Touro Cemetery. Prayers were conducted in private homes until Congregation Jeshuat Israel, the Touro Synagogue, was established in 1759. In much of the nineteenth century no Jews lived in Newport, and the ownership of the building and synagogue were entrusted to Congregation Shearith Israel. The building was reopened for the use of Ashkenazi Jews in 1883.
- Congregation Mickve Israel of Savannah, Georgia, was organized in 1733.
- Congregation Mikveh Israel of Philadelphia was organized in the 1740s.
- Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim Synagogue, Charleston, South Carolina, was founded in the 1740s.
- Kahal Kadosh Beth Shalom, Richmond, Virginia, was founded in 1789. In 1898, it merged with Congregation Beth Ahabah, which was founded in 1841.
- The St. Thomas Synagogue in the United States Virgin Islands was founded in 1796.
- Nefutzoth Yehudah (Congregation Dispersed of Judah) in New Orleans, Louisiana, was founded in 1846. In 1881, it merged with the Ashkenazic congregation Shanarai-Chasset (Congregation Gates of Mercy) to form Touro Synagogue. The congregation joined the Reform movement in 1891.
Until 1795, all congregations in the United States were Sephardic, although many or even most of the members of these congregations were descended from Eastern European Jews.
Oldest existing buildings
This list includes only buildings that are still standing. Some are still in use as synagogues, others have been repurposed.
- The Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island, is the oldest Jewish house of worship in North America that is still standing. (1759)
- The St. Thomas Synagogue congregation in the United States Virgin Islands was founded in 1796. Its current synagogue was built in 1833, and remains in use today (1833)
- Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim Synagogue, Charleston, South Carolina (1840)
- Lloyd Street Synagogue, Baltimore (1845)
- Angel Orensanz Center, New York City (1849); the oldest Ashkenazi building
- Congregation Rodeph Sholom, New York, New York, now Congregation Chasam Sopher (1852)
- Congregation Beth Israel (Honesdale, Pennsylvania) (1856)
- Sherith Israel Temple (Cincinnati, Ohio) (1860)
- Gates of Heaven Synagogue, Madison, Wisconsin (1863)
- Congregation Talmud Torah Adereth El, Manhattan (1863); a near-total renovation, but some of the original building apparently remains
- B'er Chayim Temple, Cumberland, Maryland (1865)
- Plum Street Temple, Cincinnati (1866)
- Temple Israel (Lafayette, Indiana) (1867)
- B'nai Sholom Temple, Quincy, Illinois (1870)
- Congregation Berith Sholom, Troy, New York (1870)
- Central Synagogue, New York, New York (1872)
- Shaare Tefilah (Gates of Prayer), New Orleans, Louisiana (1865-67), disused
- Congregation Mickve Israel, Savannah, Georgia (1874-78)
- Congregation Beth Israel (West Hartford, Connecticut) (1876)
- Temple of Israel (Wilmington, North Carolina) (1876)
- B'nai Israel Synagogue (Baltimore, Maryland) 1876
- Union Temple, Brooklyn, New York (1876); building known as the Keap Street Temple
- Adas Israel Congregation, Washington, D.C. (1876)
- Temple Adath Israel (Owensboro, Kentucky) (1877)
- Congregation Beth Israel (Charlottesville, Virginia) (1882)
- Congregation Adas Emuno Hoboken, New Jersey (1883)
- Temple Beth El, Jefferson City, MO (1883)
- Prince Street Synagogue Newark, New Jersey (1884)
- Temple Israel, Leadville, Colorado (1884)
- Ohavi Zedek, Burlington, Vermont (1885)
- Congregation Beth Emeth, Albany, New York (1887)
- Temple Aaron, Trinidad, Colorado, 1888
- Congregation Beth Israel (San Diego, California) (1889)
- Moses Montefiore Congregation, Bloomington, Illinois (1889)
- Ahavas Sholem Ligonier, Indiana (1889)
- Tifereth Israel, Alliance Colony, New Jersey (1889); disused
- Temple Beth Tefilloh, (Brunswick, Georgia) 1890
- Congregation B'nai Israel, Galveston, Texas (1890); disused
- B'nai Israel Temple, Salt Lake City, Utah (1890); disused
- Ahavath Beth Israel, Boise, Idaho (1896)
- Rosenhayn synagogue, Rosenhayn, New Jersey (1898)
- Temple B'nai Sholom, Huntsville, Alabama (1898)
- Temple Beth El, Alpena, Michigan, 1899
B'nai Israel, Galveston, Texas (1870)
Temple Beth-El, Pensacola, Florida (1876)
- Congregation Sha'arai Shomayim, located in Mobile, the oldest congregation in Alabama, was formally organized on January 25, 1844. Their first synagogue was Emanuel Street Synagogue, dedicated on December 27, 1846. The current Springhill Avenue Temple is their fifth location.
- Congregation Beth Sholom was first organized on September 5, 1958, in Anchorage.
- Emanu-El dedicated the first synagogue in the Arizona Territory on October 3, 1910, in Tucson. The congregation stopped holding services there in 1949. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places and currently houses the Jewish Heritage Center of the Southwest.
- Temple Israel (Stockton, California), founded 1851. Congregation has been in continuous existence, housed in four different locations over time.
- The two next oldest congregations in California are Emanu-El and Sherith Israel, in San Francisco. Both were founded in 1851. The two synagogues were founded simultaneously because the city's Jews could not agree on whether to follow the prayer customs of the Polish or German Jews. Emanu-El was therefore, founded as the congregation of the German Jews and Sherith Israel as the congregation of the Polish Jews.
- Congregation B'nai Israel (Sacramento, California) is the oldest congregation in Sacramento, California, tracing its history back to September 2, 1852, making it the first synagogue owned by a congregation west of the Mississippi River.
- Congregation Beth Israel (San Diego, California)'s 1889 building may be the oldest in California.
- Temple Israel, Leadville, Colorado, 1884 building restored as a synagogue and Jewish pioneer museum in 2008. The original congregation dissolved before 1914. The Hebrew Cemetery was established in 1880.
- Adas Kodesch Shel Emeth in Wilmington, Delaware, is the oldest congregation in the state. It was formed from the merger in 1957 of the Orthodox Adas Kodesch Congregation, which was established in 1885, and the Chesed Shel Emeth Congregation. It is usually referred to simply as Adas Kodesch and is billed as "The First Synagogue in the First State".
District of Columbia
- Washington Hebrew Congregation, congregation founded in 1852.
- Adas Israel, the building, now known as the Lilian and Albert Small Jewish Museum, is located at the corner of Third and G streets NW. It was built in 1876, after the congregation split from Washington Hebrew Congregation over the issue of organ music during services. Originally located at 6th and G streets, the dedication was attended by President Ulysses S. Grant on June 9, 1876.
- Ahavath Chesed in Jacksonville, and Temple Beth-El in Pensacola each has claims to being the oldest Jewish congregation in Florida. The Jacksonville congregation was meeting for prayer by 1867, but appears to have incorporated later than Pensacola which dedicated its first building in 1876, well before Jacksonville's 1882 building.
- The United Hebrews of Ocala building was built in 1888. It may be the oldest Florida synagogue building still standing.
- Congregation Mickve Israel of Savannah, Georgia, was organized in 1733.
- Temple Beth Tefilloh of Brunswick, Georgia, was established in 1886, and designed by renowned Jewish architect Alfred S. Eichberg, Beth Tefilloh remains rich in its history, beauty and spirit and has been continuously active since its founding.
- Temple Emanu-El dates back to 1938 when 35 Jewish families on Oahu formed the Honolulu Jewish Community. In 1939, in cooperation with the Jewish Welfare Board, a small chapel on Young Street was leased and converted into a Jewish Community Center (JCC), which also served as Honolulu's first permanent synagogue.
- Ahavath Beth Israel, Boise, Idaho (1896). The synagogue was built for Beth Israel, founded in 1895. In the 1980s, the congregation was formed as a merger of Congregation Beth Israel and Ahavath Israel, founded in 1912.
- KAM Isaiah Israel merged several older congregations in Chicago. The oldest congregation of these was Kehillat Anshe Maarav, which was founded in 1847.
- Anshai Emeth, Peoria, Reform congregation founded in 1859, continuing to present.
- Temple Emanuel of Davenport was formed as B'Nai Israel Congregation on October 21, 1861.
- B'nai Israel Congregation, Keokuk, Iowa. First permanent Jewish house of worship in Iowa, 1877.
Shaare Tefilah building, New Orleans, Louisiana
- Touro Synagogue in New Orleans, Louisiana, is the oldest congregation in the state. Touro Synagogue traces its origins back to Shanarai-Chasset (Congregation Gates of Mercy), which was founded in New Orleans in 1828.
- Shaare Tefilah (Gates of Prayer) in New Orleans, Louisiana, is the oldest surviving synagogue building in the state. Architect J. Thiele designed the brick structure to replace an earlier building, but construction was delayed by the Civil War. The cornerstone was laid in 1865 and the synagogue was dedicated in 1867. The building is located at 709 Jackson Avenue in the Lower Garden District. The former synagogue had been converted to use as a storage facility; however, it was recently purchased and will be converted to a 12-unit apartment building.
- Temple Sinai (New Orleans, Louisiana), the city's oldest Reform congregation, was established in 1870 and its original temple building was completed in 1872.
- B'nai Israel was organized in Natchez in 1843, making it the oldest congregation in Mississippi.
- An historic marker on the corner of South Street and South Main Street in Jackson marks the site of the first synagogue built in the state, Beth Israel, built in 1867. The building was destroyed by fire on July 10, 1874.
Temple Emanu-El, Helena, MT
- Temple Israel of Omaha, the oldest synagogue in Nebraska (1871).
- Temple Adath Yeshurun of Manchester, founded in 1891, is the oldest synagogue in New Hampshire.
- Temple Israel, first permanent Jewish house of worship in New Hampshire, Portsmouth, 1910.
Congregation B'nai Jeshurun of the Town of Paterson was incorporated by the New Jersey Legislature on December 22, 1847. The congregation was later named The Barnert Temple in honor of a past-president and former mayor of Paterson, Nathan Barnert. In 1987, the congregation moved from Paterson to Franklin Lakes, its current location. https://barnerttemple.org/Our_Community/Who_We_Are
- Congregation Adas Emuno (New Jersey)'s 1883 building in Hoboken is the oldest surviving synagogue building in New Jersey, although it is no longer used as a synagogue.
- Congregation B'nai Jeshurun was founded in 1848. Originally located in Newark, it is currently located in Short Hills, NJ.
- Har Sinai Temple was founded in 1857. Originally located in Trenton, it is currently located in Pennington, NJ.
- Congregation Albert, founded in 1897, is the oldest continuing Jewish organization in New Mexico.
- Congregation Montefiore, Las Vegas, N.M., first Jewish congregation in N.M. 1884
- Congregation Shearith Israel, 1654, Upper West Side, Manhattan, is the oldest congregation in New York and the United States.
- Congregation Darech Amuno (variously spelled Darech Emunah and Darech Amino), Greenwich Village was established in 1838 by Dutch Jews. The Orthodox congregation is now known as the Greenwich Village Synagogue and still has weekly Shabbat minyan at 53 Charles Street, New York, NY.
- Temple Society of Concord, 1839, Syracuse, New York.
- Angel Orensanz Center, 1849, Lower East Side, Manhattan, is the oldest synagogue building still standing in New York State.
- Central Synagogue, 1872, Midtown, Manhattan.
- Orach Chaim, 1879, Upper East Side, Manhattan
- Congregation Anshe Emeth, 1885, Hudson, New York
- Congregation Ahavas Israel, 1886, Greenpoint, Brooklyn, also known as Greenpoint Shul
- Eldridge Street Synagogue, 1887, Manhattan, was the first grand house of worship built by Eastern European Jews
- Congregation Kneses Tifereth Israel, 1887, Port Chester, New York. The congregation first held services in the homes of founding members until a building was purchased and designed by acclaimed architect Philip Johnson in 1953.
- Temple Emanu-El, Reno, Nevada, founded in 1922.
- Temple Beth Sholom, Las Vegas, Nevada, founded in 1931.
- Congregation Brit Shalom, founded in 1839. Its original synagogue was built in 1842 and in 1996 was confirmed as one of the three oldest synagogues in the United States. The building burned down in 2003. The congregation, having moved to a new building in 1959, is still intact.
- Congregation Mikveh Israel, congregation founded in 1740s in Philadelphia.
- Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel, founded in 1847, is the sixth oldest Reform Jewish synagogue in the United States.
- Sha'are Zedeck, built in 1952, is the oldest synagogue in Puerto Rico.
- The Touro Synagogue in Newport, founded in 1658, is the oldest Jewish house of worship in North America that is still standing. (1759)
- Mount Zion Congregation, Sioux Falls, possibly the oldest congregation, ca. 1903
- The 1882 building of Temple Adas Israel, Brownsville, is thought to be the oldest synagogue building in Tennessee.
- First permanent Jewish congregation in Tennessee, Children of Israel, 1858 in Memphis. Originally known as Congregation B'nai Israel-Children of Israel, Temple Israel (Memphis) was formed by 36 German Jewish families in 1853 and chartered by the state of Tennessee on March 2, 1854.
- Congregation Ohabai Sholom (The Temple) in Nashville, had its beginnings in the late 1840s when a group of Jewish residents met for religious services. The synagogue lists its beginning year as 1851, when a benevolent society purchased cemetery property. It began as Khal Kodesh Mogen David and received a charter on March 2, 1854.
- Temple Beth Israel (Houston, Texas), founded in 1854, is the oldest congregation in the state.
- The 1870 building of Congregation B'nai Israel (Galveston, Texas), is the oldest synagogue building.
- Temple Beth-El (San Antonio, Texas), founded in 1874, is the oldest synagogue in South Texas.
- B'nai Abraham Synagogue, Brenham, Brenham, Texas, Congregation founded in 1885.
Gates of Heaven Synagogue, Madison, Wisconsin (1863)
- The state's first synagogue was Temple Emamu-El (Spokane, September 12, 1892, demolished). The congregation later merged with Keneseth Israel to form the present-day Temple Beth Shalom.
- In 1914, Sephardic Bikur Holim Congregation was established. It is open for three daily prayers, on every Sabbath and all Holidays. The congregation's original members hail from the country of Turkey.
- Mt. Sinai Congregation, in Cheyenne, Wyoming, the oldest synagogue in Wyoming, built in 1910.
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