Sunday, September 5, 2010

USA: Centennial of Syracuse's Temple Concord Cornerstone

USA: Centennial of Syracuse's Temple Concord Cornerstone
by Samuel D. Gruber

(ISJM) This month marks the 100th anniversary of the laying of the cornerstone of present building of Temple Society of Concord, the oldest Jewish institution in Central New York and one of the oldest existing American congregations. The congregation will kick off this building centennial year (or years) with a brief ceremony and a wine and cheese reception before Shabbat services on Friday, September 10th. Events associated with the Jewish architecture and the building will be taking place all year, culminating with a re-dedication of the historic sanctuary next fall. The International Survey of Jewish Monuments has its office at Temple Concord, and I'll be giving a talk "Temple Concord, Jewish Architecture and City Beautiful" on April 11, 2011.

To take you back 100 years here is the story from the Syracuse Post-Standard from September 19, 1910 about the cornerstone laying ceremony. The full text of congregation president Gates Thalheimer is given. Thalheimer's remarks are indicative of American Reform sentiments at the time. I've written an article about these, and the role played by classical style architecture in promoting these sentiments and ideals, that should be out sometime in 2011.

The Post-Standard, Syracuse, N.Y., September 19, 2010

(transcribed by Samuel Gruber)

Corner Stone of Temple set with Trowel of Gold

Impressive Services Are Held by Society of Concord

Rev. Dr. Guttman, Assisted by Two Rabbis Conducts Services.

Prominent Hebrews of City Congratulate Church Upon Progress

The corner stone of the $85,000 house of worship bring erected at University avenue and Madison street by the Temple Society of Concord was set yesterday afternoon with a gold trowel presented by the Building Committee to the president of the society, Gates Thalheimer. Despite the unfavorable weather there was a large congregation at the impressive ceremonies which marked an important epoch in the growth of the society.

The corner stone contains a copper box in which was placed the customary documents, and on one side is this inscription: “Society of Concord, 1910.” The building, it is expected, will be dedicated in June next year.

Rev. Adolph Guttman, rabbi of the society, was assisted in conducting the services by Rabbis Jacob Kohn and J. H. Stolz. Besides Dr. Guttman and Mr. Thalheimer addresses were made by Dr. Nathan Jacobson, Dr. Henry L. Einer and Henry Danziger, chairman of the Building Committee. Dr. Guttman made an appeal for Godliness, declaring that no enterprise can succeed without the spirit of God. Dr. Jacobson said he regarded the ceremony as an important event in Jewish history in Syracuse and vicinity, and referred to it as the first evidence of expansion. “There are only two conditions in this world,” said Dr. Jacobson, “namely, growth and decay. We are showing growth. What we want inside of these cold walls is a spirit that will give life and sympathy and the development of religious thoughts and principle. Such an institution will bid welcome to all who seek admission.”

Dr. Eisner believed the influence of the Temple Society of Concord in its new building would be far-reaching. He spoke of the value of culture and good influence.

The trowel was presented to Mr. Thalheimer by Henry Danziger. It is engraved as follows: “With this trowel was set the corner stone of the Temple Society of Concord in 1910. Presented to Gates Thalheimer, president, by the members of the Building Committee.

Mr. Thalmeimer made a short address which was cordially received. In part he said:

The laying of this corner stone is an event, toward which many of us have looked for a long time. When the thought of building a new Temple first arose among us there were many problems to settle. First among these was the matter of location. I am sure that now we will all agree that this problem was settled right. Many of our people have worshiped in the old Temple at State and Harrison streets. That Temple has had a noble history. There are many tender associations there, which we shall not forget. But changes of population have been great since our old Temple was built. We have chosen, therefore, this place on this hill, surrounded by a fine neighborhood of beautiful homes, close to the campus of a great university. It does seem a most appropriate place for us to locate and build. We shall cherish the memories of the old house of God, but our faces are turned towards the future and we are planning for the years to come. We are thinking of our children, and of our children’s children. We are carrying out a programme which ought to increase the usefulness and influence of our society.

What we are doing now ought to forecast a new epoch of prosperity and provide a permanent home for our people for generations to come.

Our business now is to complete this Temple, equip it, pay for it and do our best to make it a worthy monument to the living vitality of the faith of Israel. So much in a business way.

I am not your pastor. I would be out of place preaching to you, or exhorting you. I certainly have no desire to pose as a religious leader. But there are thoughts that crowd the mind of a plain business man at such a time as this. There are associations with our temple building which stir ancient and noble memories. There are interests here greater than those of brick and stone and builder’s accounts.

We who are members of this temple Society of Concord are also members of the household of Israel. We ought to be proud of this fact. We ought to be glad that we are Israelistes. It is the best thing in all that we inherit form the past that we were born among that ancient people whose history is older than the throne of Caesar’s or the ideas of Plato.

To-day we are far from the home where our fathers lived. The land they loved is in ruins. The temple they built is no more. Some among our people dream of a time when they will return to Palestine and rebuilt her waste places. Perhaps that time may come. Possibly some future age may see Zion restored to her ancient beauty. But that is not for us who are settled here in this new world. We are a remnant of the people of God, but we have learned to love this great Republic. We are among its citizens. Its duties and its right are ours.

This brings me to my final word and to the thought which is behind all I have so far said. This land of ours is a great workshop. Its looms and wheels turn fast. The opportunities for education, wealth and power are marvelous. The temptations are also great. We are drawn into the whirlpool of this vast tumult. This is no time nor place for ancient superstitions or outgrown fables.

But it is a time to recall the one thing which has made Israel immortal. We are to be modern up to date men and women. We are to be Americans. But it will be a miserable mistake if we forget that we are also of that people who made that ancient covenant with Jehovah. With malice toward none and with love toward all we are building this Temple because we are sharers in Israel’s hope. That hope which from Abraham until now has never failed our race.

The very thing we can do for ourselves, four our children, and for our country, is to renew our vows to the God of our fathers that in our day and generation we will serve Him. This Temple is to be our pledge that Israel’s faith is one, and that though we are divided by continents and seas and languages, yet our hope is one.

Several hymns were sung by the quartet choir of the Temple Society of Concord under the direction of George K. Van Deusen.

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