Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Stained Glass: The Neumann Chapel at Keneseth Israel, Elkins Park

Elkins Park, PA. Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel. Neumann Chapel, 1959. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2019.
Elkins Park, PA. Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel. Neumann Chapel, Stained glass windows, 1960. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2019.
Elkins Park, PA. Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel. Neumann Chapel, 1960. Stained glass window detail, "Proclaim Liberty". Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2019.
USA: A 1960 Stained Glass Cycle at Keneseth Israel, Elkins Park, PA

The Neumann Chapel by William Haley and the Rambusch Company

by Samuel D. Gruber 

Occasionally on this blog I've written about synagogue stained glass, and for several years The International Survey of Jewish Monuments has been documenting examples of stained glass, especially from American synagogues. Why? Because this seems to be an area of Jewish and synagogue art that has been neglected, and it can be in many ways revealing not only about changing artistic tastes, but also institutional and artistic messaging about Judaism. My goal for ISJM is to create for synagogues a collection of images and information similar to what the Census of American Stained Glass has tried for churches.

Last year I spent a few hours at Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania. Today, Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, is home to two significant cycles of stained glass installed in the suburban synagogue complex opened in 1959 after the congregation moved from their 1892 building on North Broad Street. The congregation also salvaged a few of its windows from the older building. The first stained glass series was installed in 1960 in the Neumann Chapel, located off the main vestibule of the synagogue complex. The second was installed in the sanctuary. is an 1974 and a ten window cycle by Jacob Landau entitled The Prophetic Quest. The older windows are in the Temple vestibule.

I'll write further elsewhere about the 1959 building and the Landau windows and we await a new book from Pennsylvania State University Press about those windows, too. This post, however, introduces the earlier and lesser known cycle that is installed in the chapel. as art, they're not really my cup of tea, but they do sum up in art a particular moment in American Jewish life and thought. And stylistically, they are probably closer to contemporary trends than at any time in the past few decades. The figure is back, especially in illustration and animation for story telling in comics and graphic novels ...of which there is an ever increasing number with Jewish content aimed at a Jewish audience.

Elkins Park, PA. Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel. Neumann Chapel, 1960. Stained glass window detail illustrating Isaiah 2:4. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2019.
The earliest known use of stained glass in American synagogues is from the 1840s, and the types and techniques used have changed over the decades, as has the types of abstract patterns, and symbolic and narrative imagery used. Colored glass with painted symbols start getting used in 1870s, and single figures and narrative scenes begin to show in Reform temples in the 1890s, though usually Christian-themed windows are merely repurposed and re-titled. Additionally, but sometimes using similar iconography, were windows honoring important individuals. The Reform congregation Keneseth Israel had two such figural windows in its Renaissance style 1892 building on North Broad Street in Philadelphia. These were large memorial windows to Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise and to President Theodore Roosevelt which were dedicated in 1909. There were also windows with Biblical scenes, one of which is on view in the vestibule of the present-day Keneseth Israel, dedicated in 1959.

Former Temple Keneseth Israel, Philadelphia, Rabbi Isaac M. Wise Memorial window, Moses Jacob Ezekiel, 1909.

Elkins Park, PA. Reform Temple Keneseth Israel. Window from former synagogue on North Broad Street. Subjects are Ruth and Naomi on the right and Abraham and Isaac on the left. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2019.
Elkins Park, PA. Reform Temple Keneseth Israel. Window honoring President Theodore Roosevelt from former synagogue on North Broad Street. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2019.
In the interwar period, there continued to be the use of non-representational windows, too, using patterns of colored glass, or more often, mixing these with a limited number of panels representing Jewish symbols, life cycle events and broad Biblical stories and Jewish precepts, even including Hebrew inscriptions.

As we have seen, already by 1909, and even more so in the 1920s, some Reform congregations had begun to include large windows with individual human figures - usually prophets - or narrative themes representing either Biblical events or Jewish themes. These programs were usually developed by rabbis and building committees in conjunction with the established stained glass studios from where windows were ordered.


Chicago, IL. Temple Isaiah. Stained glass window of figure representing "Kadosh" (Holy), ca. 1924. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2004.
The post-World War II period, however, was especially a period of transition in the planning and production of synagogue stained glass. Many more themes relevant to contemporary Judaism were introduced, and patrons and artists were more confident in including individual figures, but especially narrative scenes to be used for spiritual and community messaging. This was especially true in Reform synagogues, but even Conservative and Orthodox congregations adopted more stained glass, though this tended to be more abstract, even if the themes - such as "creation" - were specific.

Some congregations reached out to leading Jewish artists to decorate their new mid-century modern synagogues with either large windows or series of windows on Jewish themes: Marc Chagall, Ben Shahn, Abraham Rattner, Adolph Gottlieb, Jacob Landau, David Holleman, William Saltzman, and others. Often these were well-known artists who were not experienced in the art of stained glass. They learned on the job and worked with individual or studio glass fabricators. Quite often, rabbis would work with the artists to develop the themes and to chose appropriate texts to be inscribed as part of the overall design.

Still other congregations engaged leading modern stained glass artists such as Robert Sowers or Jean-Jacques Duval. Most often these works are abstract. I do not know why Rabbi Bertram Korn chose the New York-based Rambusch Company to make this chapel cycle, but the rabbi apparently worked closely with Rambusch artist William "Bud" Haley on the designs. Haley and the Rambusch team were leading creators of American church stained glass in the 1950s. Haley worked for Rambusch for forty years and is responsible for many large window cycles, especially for Christian churches. A good examples of his work is the Holy Cross Catholic Church in Omaha which can be viewed here.I am not aware of any other synagogue work.

Elkins Park, PA. Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel. Neumann Chapel, Stained glass detail, Fourth window: "Do Unto Others..., Talmud, Shabbat 31a, 1960. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2019.
There are five large vertical windows all on one side of the chapel, seen in a row as a series. Korn wrote that the design and artistry should serve "the greater issue of Judaic content..This and all windows designed for the Neumann Chapel are to carry the double purpose of commemorating important historical personages and to inculcate spiritual teaching to our own generation."
For KI, Rabbi Korn chose five themes that were important within the Reform Movement: Justice, Peace, Women's Rights, Charity, and Liberty/Americanism.

  
First window: Justice, Justice, Thou Shalt Pursue (Deut. 16:20)

Instead of showing prophets such as Isaiah or Micah, we see the figure of Moses giving the law to the Tribes of Israel who are represented by their tents and as a mass of people. This passage always resonates, but for Jews it might have had special significance in 1960, at the end of the McCarthy era blacklist and at the height of the Civil Rights Movement.
 
Elkins Park, PA. Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel. Neumann Chapel, 1960. Stained glass window detail illustrating "Justice, Justice Thou Shalt Pursue. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2019.
Elkins Park, PA. Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel. Neumann Chapel, 1960. Stained glass window detail illustrating "Justice, Justice Thou Shalt Pursue. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2019.

Second window: They Shall Beat Their Swords into Plowshares (Isaiah 2:4)

The second window was paid for in part by the children of the congregation so not surprisingly, two modern children, a boy and girl, are being shepherded by the prophet Isaiah, who calls for swords to be beaten into plowshares. We see a lot of soldiers, but I would doubt that these suburban Philadelphians would even know what a plowshare was - I don't think I did was their age in Philadelphia just a few years later. But there is a lot of weaponry, and the juxtaposition of the old timer prophet and in the modern children now part of his world presents a sense of adventure, something like the children encountering Oz or Narnia (a very Christian adventure), or maybe in America in 1960, the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. Today Isaiah looks like Dumbledore, and the children Harry and Hermione. Or perhaps, Rabbi Korn and and bud Haley were thinking of the older windows of Keneseth Israel, like the one shown above with the beard Patriarch and a boy (Abraham and Isaac?)

Thematically there is something poignant about the sentiment. It comes just at the end of the Korean War and at the beginning of the Vietnam War. The Cuban Missile Crisis was only two years away, but Israel's War of Independence was twelve years past, and the Suez War only four years previous. The world was scared of nuclear destruction, while more immediately gunfire in American would soon slay the president and moral leaders, and by the late the 1960s begin to take thousands of lives of citizens every year - a process that has only escalated in the years since. There continue to be more swords than plowshares, more handguns and semi-automatic rifles than shovels, hoes and rakes.

When I look at this image of the children surrounded by soldiers and swords, I also look ahead. This is not the beginning of giving children a place in Jewish art, but soon as Holocaust commemoration takes its center place in Jewish memory, the memory of children will be push and promoted. Already in 1960 Anne Frank has become the poster child for the Holocaust. The Broadway production of the Diary of Anne Frank ran from 1955 to 1957, and then traveled the country. The film version came out in 1959, just as these windows were being planned.



Elkins Park, PA. Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel. Neumann Chapel, 1960. Stained glass window detail illustrating Isaiah 2:4. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2019.

Richard Beymer and Millie Perkins in The Diary of Anne Frank (1959).

Elkins Park, PA. Reform Temple Keneseth Israel. Window from former synagogue on North Broad Street. Subject might be Abraham and Isaac. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2019

Third window: Queen Esther / A Woman of Valor (Proverbs 3)

This window celebrates Queen Esther as a woman and as a hero - a Woman of Valor in multiple ways. The women's movement was only just getting started in 1960, but many of the soon-to-be leaders were Jewish women like Betty Friedan who applied Jewish teaching about women outside the Jewish home and the synagogue into society. She published the Feminine Mystique in 1963. Already, most American synagogues knew they could not survive without the extensive - usually unpaid - assistance of women. The Temple Sisterhood routinely helped organize and often fund all sorts of synagogue events, and at KI, they were the ones who sponsored this window.  

Interestingly, Esther the Queen is placed on an actual pedestal in this image (like Grace Kelly's Tracy Lord in the hit 1956 musical High Society), with Mordecai looking up to her. This American-Jewish version of the heroic woman still has a long way to go to bring her off the pedestal into the world, as Zionist art had been attempting, and as some representation of Holocaust heroes had achieved.

Elkins Park, PA. Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel. Neumann Chapel, 1960. Stained glass window quoting Proverbs 31m but illustrating the Book of Esther. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2019.
Elkins Park, PA. Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel. Neumann Chapel, 1960. Stained glass window quoting Proverbs 31m but illustrating the Book of Esther. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2019.
Lisolette Girschebina, Photo from Sports in Israel: Discus Thrower, 1937. Collection of Israel Museum

Warsaw, Poland.  Warsaw Uprising Monument. Nathan Rapoport, sculptor. dedicated 1948. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2008.
Fourth window: Do Unto Others... (Talmud, Shabbat 31a)

This window features Rabbi Hillel, and celebrates that the performance of good deeds-helping and supporting others-is at the heart of Judaism. Though a mild scene of a teacher or Torah and his students, the image and the message are essential to the optimism and outreach of Liberal Judaism as it developed in post-World War II America. This a time when Judaism, because in large part of sacrifices during the war (and the Holocaust), was elevated to an equal status with Protestant Christianity and Catholicism as one of the three religious pillars of America. The choice of this passage from the Talmud is intentional - as it is the same oft-quoted New Testament passage from Matthew (7:12), thus indicating that at their cores, Judaism and Christianity are united, not opposed. 

This is an very liberal American idea. On April 1, 1961, just a year after the completion of these windows, the artist Norman Rockwell made this point on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post with one of his most famous illustrations of exactly this passage. It is important to remember, too, that this cover was published just shortly after the inauguration of John F. Kennedy, the country's first Roman Catholic president. Kennedy himself, echoed this passage in his inaugural address when he said famously, “And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.”

Elkins Park, PA. Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel. Neumann Chapel, 1960. Stained glass window illustrating Rabbi Hillel with the admonition "Do Unto Others ...". Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2019.

Norman Rockwell. "Do unto Others ..." Saturday Evening Post cover April 1, 1961.

Fifth Window: Proclaim Liberty (Leviticus 25:10)

This window celebrates the Jewish contribution to the Revolutionary War, and introduces us to Haym Salomon who is shown shaking hands with Robert Morris, and taking his place as a financier of the Revolution.Salomon was made famous (again) through the erection of a bronze statue in Chicago in 1941 and by the Howard Fast historical novel Haym Salomon, Son of Liberty of the same year. Rabbi Korn was an historian of American Jewish history, and Salomon was a Philadelphia hero, so it not surprising to find him on these windows as a More "modern" Jew.

Howard Fast was black-listed for his active membership in the Communist Party, but in 1958 the reissue by Crown Publishers Spartacus, Fast's most famous novel, effectively ended his blacklisting within the American publishing industry. The timing might be coincidence, or perhaps this window, is also a celebration of Freedom of the press and political liberty in contemporary times. Salomon would be celebrated again in 1975 on an United States commemorative stamp, and would figure as the "token" Jews in any representation of Founding Fathers and Heroes of the American Revolution.

Elkins Park, PA. Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel. Neumann Chapel, 1960. Stained glass window detail, "Proclaim Liberty". Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2019
Chicago, Illinois. Monument to Washington, Robert Morris, and Haym Solomon, 1941.. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber, 2008
Elkins Park, PA. Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel. Neumann Chapel, 1960. Stained glass Window detail, "Proclaim Liberty". Photo: Samuel D. Gruber 2019.

Significantly, there are no windows referring directly the Holocaust, the still-new State of Israel, or the nascent Civil Rights Movement, all issues which would engage the Reform Movement in the 1960s - but also all of which could stir controversy within the congregation.Still, the themes chosen could reflect those "silent" themes, too. The first window about Justice could refer to the Civil Right Movement; the second window about Peace could refer to hopes for the state of Israel; the third window about Esther could refer the Holocaust since the enemy Haman was seen in the post-warrior period as an earlier Hitler. The fourth window, "Do Unto Others," was certainly meant to encourage charity and tolerance; and the fifth window to both encourage patriotism but to emphasize that American Jews were and always had been, patriotic.

I want to thank Rabbi Lance Sussman of Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel for his hospitality.

 For more posts about synagogue stained glass click below:

 USA: Cincinnati's Alhambra (Plum Street Temple's Dazzling Interior)

Cincinnati's (former) Wise Center Windows: A Mid-Century Modern Surprise in a Majestic 1920s Building

USA: Jean-Jacques Duval's Connecticut Synagogue Stained Glass Still Dazzles After 50 Years

USA: Woonsocket, Rhode Island's Remarkable Tent of Meeting, of Concrete and Colored Glass

Sunday, April 19, 2020

The Kasejovice (Czech Republic) Jewish Cemetery: Typical and Beautiful

Kasejovice, Czech Republic.  Jewish cemetery. Round-head gravestones in the older, lower part. These stones are typical of the 18th and early 19th century. These ones are quite austere, though the central stone is decorated with a Magen David, a symbol particularly popular in Bohemia due to its origins as a Jewish symbol in Renaissance Prague. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2018
Kasejovice, Czech Republic.  Jewish cemetery. The older, lower part, with original wall. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2018
Kasejovice, Czech Republic.  Jewish cemetery. The older, lower part, with original wall. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2018
Kasejovice, Czech Republic. Jewish cemetery. The gravestone of Jakob Rudinger (d. 1889) is near the entrance and is one of the more elaborate markers. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2018.
The Kasejovice (Czech Republic)  Jewish Cemetery: Typical and Beautiful

by Samuel D. Gruber

In addition to the preserved 18th-century synagogue in the Bohemian town of Kasjovice, about which I recently wrote, there is a beautiful Jewish cemetery on a hill a half kilometer northwest of town. It is well-preserved and maintained by the Jewish Community of Plzen. A farmhouse abuts the cemetery gate and wall, and presumably the farm residents provide a good deal of security to the site. 

When we visited, unannounced, the cemetery was open. After appreciating a sweeping view back to the town and over the surrounding countryside, one enters through a recently restored gatehouse with a double entryway. Explanatory historical signage in Czech is posted on the outer wooden gate. 

Overall, this cemetery is not too different from scores of others in Bohemia. Though typical, however, it should not be ignored. It is a beautiful place; a walled "garden of the living," and it is a good introduction to the generally good condition of Czech cemeteries. It was not always like this. When I organized a survey of Czech cemeteries in 1991, the late Jiri Fiedler and the survey team identified hundreds of cemeteries that needed help. Over the past 25 years the small but dedicated and marvelously creative, organized, and tenacious Czech Jewish community had been continually at work to protect and preserve the Jewish heritage and religious sites in the country. The Federation of Jewish Communities of the Czech Republic has its own administrative arm to care for cemeteries and also works closely with local municipalities.
 
Kasejovice, Czech Republic. Farmhouse at entrance to Jewish cemetery. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2018.
Kasejovice, Czech Republic. view to town from entrance to Jewish cemetery. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2018.
Kasejovice, Czech Republic. Outer gate to entrance to Jewish cemetery. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2018.
Kasejovice, Czech Republic. Historic signage at Jewish cemetery. Photo: Ruth Ellen Gruber 2018.
Kasejovice, Czech Republic. Inner gate to entrance to Jewish cemetery. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2018.
Kasejovice, Czech Republic. Entrance to Jewish cemetery, looking back through both gates. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2018.
The late Jiri Fiedler wrote that the Kasejovice cemetery was probably founded in 1701, and the oldest legible gravestone is from 1710. It was expanded a few times, and among the visible stones are representatives of several different types and styles common from the 18th through the early 20th centuries.

Like most Bohemian Jewish cemeteries the site is surrounded by a wall - this one partly of stone and partly of brick, perhaps reflecting different times of construction. The wall allows protection of the site and is an important tool in creating a separate and tranquil space for the dead - or those who visit them. There is also a structure at the entrance that would have served as a small pre-burial house. These usually had facilities for the preparation of the corpse for burial - but I do not know if this was the case at Kasejovice. There may have been a place for this in the town proper, the body being prepared prior to transport to the cemetery.

Kasejovice, Czech Republic.  Jewish cemetery. The older, lower part, with brick wall probably from the 19th century.  Photo: Samuel Gruber 2018.
Kasejovice, Czech Republic.  Jewish cemetery. Part of an original stone wall, from the 18th or 19th centur.. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2018.
Kasejovice, Czech Republic.  Jewish cemetery. A finely carved but worn stone with the blessing hands of the Cohanim.  Photo: Samuel Gruber 2018.
The new section of cemetery is on the flat ground near the cemetery entrance at the top of the hill. This section has perhaps a hundred intact grave markers, many in the neo-classical style popular in the 19th century. A common type is the pedestal style stone, made of cheaper limestone, with an inset engraved rectangular plaque of more expansive white or black marble.



Kasejovice, Czech Republic.  Jewish cemetery. Newer section, second half 19th century. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2018.
Kasejovice, Czech Republic.  Jewish cemetery. Newer section, late 19th-early 20th century. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2018.
Kasejovice, Czech Republic.  Jewish cemetery. This may be a double grave, hence the division into two parts (husband and wife?). Carving it this way also recalls the Tablets of the Law. The stone is very worn so it is hard to read the inscription without raking light. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2018.
Kasejovice, Czech Republic.  Jewish cemetery. This is a much newer version of a double grave marker - from the 1920s. It commemorates Adolph Steiner (d. 1921) and his wife Alzbeta (d. 1923). Photo: Samuel Gruber 2018.
The gravestone of Jakob Rudinger (d. 1889) is near the entrance, and is one of the more elaborate markers. The grave marker consists of a tall stone decorated by carved Baroque-style architectural features, into which is set a large round-headed black marble tablet inscribed in gold lettering in Hebrew and German on the main section of the front.

An oval enameled portrait of the deceased set in the central space of the upper level. As I wrote about in my description of the Jewish cemetery in Southampton, England, enamel versions of formal portrait photos became popular in the second half of the 19th century. The method of fixing a photographic image on enamel or porcelain by firing it in a kiln was already patented in France by 1854. The practice spread across Europe and was being used regularly in cemeteries by the late 19th century as a cheaper alternative to statuary or longer inscriptions for the personalizing of the gravestone.

In many cases in this cemetery, and even more in others that I have visited, the inscribed black marble slabs  have been broken, or more often stolen to be flipped and used for other purposes - including new Christian tombstones. This was especially true in the decades following World War II when Jewish cemeteries in Communist Czechoslovakia were abandoned and neglected, and they were frequently "quarried" for precious stones. Sometimes, as in the second example the identifying plaque is gone but the enameled portrait remains. We see an elderly Jewish woman - anonymous - looking out at us, silent testimony to a life, a time, and an entire culture, gone by.

Kasejovice, Czech Republic.  Jewish cemetery. The gravestone of Jakob Rudinger (d. 1889) is near the entrance, and is one of the more elaborate markers. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2018.
Kasejovice, Czech Republic.  Jewish cemetery. Gravestone of an anonymous woman. She face remains, but not her name. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2018.
Kasejovice, Czech Republic.  Jewish cemetery. Gravestone of an anonymous woman. She face remains, but not her name. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2018.

Kasejovice, Czech Republic. Jewish cemetery. The upper newer part with matzevot in pedestal and obelisk forms from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Many of these once had enamel or porcelain portraits of the deceased.  Photo: Samuel Gruber 2018.
Kasejovice, Czech Republic. Jewish cemetery. The upper newer part with matzevot in pedestal and obelisk forms from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Many of these once had enamel pr porcelain portraits of the deceased.  Photo: Samuel Gruber 2018.
Kasejovice, Czech Republic.  Jewish cemetery. The older, lower part, with neo-classical matzevah set against original wall. The marble (?) inscribed plaque has been removed, but this stone probably once marked an early or mid-19th century grave.  Photo: Samuel Gruber 2018.
 


Thursday, April 16, 2020

Syracuse, NY: The First Synagogue Buildings of Temple Concord

Syracuse, NY. First purpose-built home of Temple Society of Concord. E. T.  Hayden, architect, 1851 (demolished).
Syracuse, NY. Building Committee plaque from first purpose-built Temple Society of Concord. It was visible immediately inside the entrance of the first synagogue. Now it is installed at Concord's home at University Avenue and Madison Street.  Photo: Samuel Gruber 2019.
Syracuse Jewish Sites IV: The First Synagogue Buildings of Temple Concord

[cross-posted from My Central New York]

(Note: I have looked at Temple Concord records and old newspapers and maps for this account, but much of it is based on the indispensable account of Syracuse Jewish history: B. G. Rudolph, From a Minyan to a Community (Syracuse: Syracuse Univ. Press, 1970. The book, while lacking a lot of the texture of the diverse Syracuse Jewish community after 1900, provides a very detailed early history of the Temple Society of Concord).

Syracuse’s first Jewish congregation, Temple Society of Concord, was founded by German-speaking Jews in 1839 and it still survives through congregational splits and physical moves. In 2019, the venerable congregation voted to sell its landmark classical-style building, dedicated in 1911, in order to have some financial security to continue as a congregation. The sale of the property and its development for luxury student housing (the site is almost adjacent to Syracuse University) is still being reviewed, and it is unknown what will be the final outcome.

This article is about the earlier history of Temple Concord and the buildings its members occupied before the dedication of the present structure in 1911. Concord, one of the oldest Jewish religious congregations in the United States, has a history that is fairly typical of many American congregations. It was founded in 1839 by German-speaking immigrants drawn to upstate New York by the new economic opportunities offered by the Erie Canal, which opening 1825. Syracuse prospered as the center point of the Canal, and the first Jewish minyan (prayer group) of 1839 grew by 1850 into a substantial Jewish community of 100 families. In one decade, Temple Society of Concord outgrew its temporary home three times.

The small group of men first met in a back room of a local store, but soon moved to better quarters. They first relocated to the second floor of a member’s home on Mulberry Street and by 1841 they hired their first "rabbi," although he was not formally trained or ordained. At this time the minyan incorporated and first took the name “Comrades of Peace” and later Keneseth Shalome. This Hebrew name translated into the fulsome English language of the time. Shalom became Concord, and the congregation incorporated as the Temple Society of Concord. 180 years later the congregation survives with the same legal name, which it has shortened to Temple Concord for practical reasons. 

Temple Concord's congregants weren't the only Jews in town. By 1844 a second minyan, named Beth Israel, was formed by Eastern European Jews, and this group was augmented by English Jews by 1854. This group would erect a synagogue on Grape Street in 1856.

In 1842 the still-new Temple Concord congregation purchased land at the edge of the Rose Hill Cemetery on Lodi Street as the area's first Jewish burial ground (this remained the primary burial ground for the congregation until three acres were purchased in Woodlawn Cemetery in 1893). Having fulfilled this responsibility, the congregation was then ready in 1846 to purchase its first permanent home; a house on the corner of Mulberry and Madison streets which was extensively remodeled for synagogue use.


Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise as a young man. Photo: American Jewish Archives.
Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise (1819-1900), then only 27 years old and recently arrived as a rabbi in Albany, came to dedicate the new house of worship. He described his visit to Syracuse in his memoirs (notes by B. G. Rudolph):
These gentlemen, who had been delegated by the congregation to call upon me, took me to Gerson's kosher hotel [Jacob Garson's boardinghouse], where I spent two weeks. I can recall the name of one of them, a Mr. Henochsberg [Aaron Henocksburg]. The builder had not finished the synagogue at the promised time, and the dedication had to be postponed one week.

During my stay in Syracuse I learned much of importance, for it was my first opportunity for intimate contact with the people among whom I was to live and work, and I had ample time to observe and study them. It did not take me long to view the salt-works, the Indi­ans, the canal, and other sights. ... I found there several people of culture, notably a Mr. Stein [Jacob Stone], a most intelligent man who explained the situation thoroughly. He was as witty as he was intelli­gent; he was well read, and understood human nature. He took charge of me, introduced me to the people, called my attention to their merits and their faults, so that I began to comprehend the lay of the land.

The dedication took place on the Friday and Saturday preceding the Jewish New Year in 1846, and was a great and joyous festival for the Jews of Syracuse. Everything passed off well, and the newspapers teemed with praise. All my instructions had been obeyed with one ex­ception, viz; to omit a certain prayer on Sunday morning, called Makhnise Rachamin. I was completely satisfied with Syracuse, and contributed, to the best of my ability, to the success of the celebration and the organization of the congregation.
It only took a few years, however, for the congregation to outgrow what really was just a house of worship and to begin planning a new purpose-built synagogue. They found a good corner site at Harrison and Mulberry (now State) Streets, engaged a leading local architect for the job, and the new building was ready for dedication on September 20, 1851.

Syracuse, NY. G.M. Hopkins, Atlas of the City of Syracuse New York, 1908, dtl plate 2. Location of first purpose-built home of Temple Society of Concord at Harrison and Mulberry (lower left), now site of Everson Museum of Art with street names changed to Harrison and State.
Syracuse, NY. G.M. Hopkins, Atlas of the City of Syracuse New York, 1908, dtl plate 2. Location of first purpose-built home of Temple Society of Concord (1851) at Harrison and Mulberry (State). The Rosenbloom Shul (1887), is located on Orange Street (McBride) just south of Madison Street, on the right of the map detail.
We know most of the details of the processions, orations, services of dedication and celebration. The events were covered repeated in the local press, with a mix of intense pride and intense curiosity. Syracuse at the time was a very German city, so the ceremonies of the German-speaking immigrants - whether they were Jewish or not - fit right in the cultural climate of the time. In the mid-19th century there were greater tensions between Protestants and Catholics than between Christian and Jews. The numbers of Jew were still small and their communities industrious and civic-minded, and so, despite some violence against Jewish peddlers in rural areas, the establishment of synagogues in cities was always welcome.

We are especially fortunate to have a detailed account of the dedication from a learned and authoritative Jewish perspective. The published account by Rev. Dr. Isaac Leeser offers one of the most comprehensive descriptions of a mid-19th century synagogue dedication to come down to us. And it all happened because some correspondence went unanswered, or wasn't sent, or got lost in the mail. Many dignitaries attended the two-day dedication ceremonies. Importantly, Leeser, America’s leading Jewish religious and intellectual figure, attended and then published a lengthy account of visit and the events in The Occident and American Jewish Advocate (September 1851). Leeser was originally intended to preside, but as notice of his coming never arrived the congregation invited another rabbi, and yet a third was passing through town. So Leeser, who arrived at the last moment, consented to a spectator.

Leeser took good notes. He quotes the cornerstone in its entirely. The tablet lists Temple Trustees and Building Committee (Jacob Stone, I. H. Bronner, H. Ekstine, I. Garson. M. Marks, E. Ettenheimer, M. Cone, A. Henochsberg, S. Oppenheimer, J Silberman, S. Rosenbach, S. Bamberger, M. Goldstein, M. Weisman, S. Manheimer), and lists Elijah T. Hayden (1809-1901) as architect and G. Blumer as builder. 

Hayden was not just an important Syracuse architect. He was also a leading abolitionist before the Civil War.

The architect distinguished himself with important Greek Revival buildings, but his Temple Concord was an eclectic mix of classical, Romanesque, and Gothic styles.  It had a large cupola - but this blew over in a storm in 1856 and was not replaced. An undated photo -- post cupola - shows a round stained-glass window with a Star of David above the entrance as well as a Hebrew inscription above the doorway – both would have been new sights to Syracusans.
 
Syracuse, NY. Building Committee plaque from first purpose-built Temple Society of Concord, now installed at Temple Concord's third home at University Avenue and Madison Street.  Photo: Samuel Gruber 2019.

A newspaper article published a few days before the dedication gushed:
“This beautiful building … is one of the most beautiful structures in our city and is an ornament to the section of the city in which it is situated. Our Jewish population are among the most industrious and frugal of our citizens and their beautiful house of worship will doubtless be an inducement for others of the same creed to make this city a permanent residence...” [“The Jewish Synagogue” Standard, 9-15-1851].
Indeed, already by 1854, according to The Israelite newspaper, there were 180 Jewish families living  in Syracuse.  And in fifty years, even with new congregations in the city, it would be time to build an even bigger Temple Concord.

The women of the congregation were enlisted to create and provide the decorations for the interior – and for this they apparently reached out to Christian women in the community, too, as is reported in a newspaper article of June 1851. We can wonder what these “decorations” were. Perhaps curtains, cushions, carpets and other fittings and finishes.
Jews Synagogue
We notice that a subscription paper is circulating among the ladies of our city, the purpose of securing assistance in ornamenting the new Synagogue now in course of erection on the corner of Mulberry and Harrison Streets. In this enterprise our Jewish citizens have been quite successful, but their ladies being few in number, they solicit the donations of others. For the procuring those ornaments necessary to the finishing of the interior. It is a worthy object and we heartily commend it to the liberality of the ladies of this city.”  Standard 6-23-1851
As plans for the new synagogue moved forward, congregants disagreed about the organization of the liturgy and performance of ritual. This was a scenario that was playing out in congregations across America, but would accelerate after the Civil War.

These were the years when Jewish religious Reform was advancing in America. Many congregations were experimenting – often in ad hoc way - with simplifying and adjusting their services often in emulation of contemporary American Protestant worship. The building committee found itself in the center of these discussions since many “reforms” would  impact  the building's design, especially seating and the arrangement  the Ark and bimah.

Older members of the congregation preferred, for the most part, to retain  traditional practices, which today we would call Orthodox. Newcomers, many who had emigrated to America after 1848, when Reforms had already taken hold in Germany and elsewhere in Central Europe, wanted reforms. These new members and younger American-born congregants were attracted to the movement of Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise, now based in Cincinnati, but whom many remembered from his visit to Syracuse.

The reform-minded wanted family seating in pews instead of separation by gender. They favored an arrangement similar to what was common in Protestant churches. They favored an increased decorum, with pews arranged off of an central aisle and the reader's desk placed at the front of the sanctuary facing the congregation, set close to the Ark. They also advocated shortening services by eliminating prayer repetition, and advocated for other liturgical changes.

The result was a compromise. Galleries were erected around three sides of the new temple to separate women  from the men and a (modern) ritual bath (mikvah), with hot and cold water, was built in the basement. These steps met the expectations of the more "Orthodox" members. To satisfy the reformers the ground floor seating was arranged in a more church-like style, and the bimah, pulpit and Ark were all united at the far end of the sanctuary along a straight axis from the entrance.

Leeser in his a long account of the dedication, which can be read in full here, points out several interesting aspects of the new synagogue's design, which was
....a large, roomy, and lofty house, every way worthy to serve as a place for the dwelling of the God of Jacob. It is, from the front to the rear wall, sixty-four feet in length, of which twelve feet are appropriated for the vestibule and stairways, leaving the entire length of the main Synagogue fifty-two feet. The width is forty-eight feet; but, as the gallery on the west extends over the entry, the ceiling covers the whole length, so that the breadth just named is in perfect harmony with the other dimensions. There is a gallery running along three sides, and an upper one for the choir, whenever they shall have it, on the west, fronting the ark.
The ceiling is vaulted over the side galleries, and from them springs another vault over the centre, giving a beautiful finish to the whole. From the middle of this is suspended a beautiful glass chandelier, the metal work of which is of gilt lacquer, and it has forty-two gas-burners, in three tiers. It was manufactured by the Messrs. Cornelius, of this city, at a cost of four hundred dollars, and, from its loftiness and graceful proportions, is a real ornament to the building.
The seats are disposed of in two rows, with a broad walk between them, and a narrower margin on the sides, and are divided off in the centre, in the form of church pews, but without any doors. The portion near the ark is semicircular, as are also the step leading thereto and the ark itself, over which is a handsome stained-glass window, on which are inscribed the initial portions of the ten commandments. 
 Leeser regrets that there is no independent reader's stand, finding instead
...a sloped reading-table within the limits of the balustrade which surrounds the ark; within which are also two sofas for the President and Vice-President of the Congregation. There is also a movable pulpit, which can be placed when required within the opening of the balustrade just named, so that the preacher may face the audience.
The wood-work down stairs is painted in imitation of black walnut, whereas the columns and gallery are of a neutral colour, the walls being plain white. There are five windows on each side of the house, four of which are in the main Synagogue and one in the entry. The material used is for the basement blue limestone, and brick for the superstructure.
A flight of stone steps lead to the main entrance, where we saw a tablet bearing the names of the officers ....
He also describes that in the lofty basement
is a dwelling for the sexton, a meeting-room for the congregation, and a schoolroom; besides a Mikveh, supplied with hot and cold water. The school and meeting-rooms are so arranged with folding doors that, upon an occasion requiring it, they can be transformed into a large hall, well-lighted, running the entire length of the main building.
This last point is remarkable, as it pushes back by almost a century an innovation in religious architecture design that is often attributed to the post-World War II generation, i.e. folding doors to create flexible space. While I do know of several turn-of-the-20th century occurrences of this arrangement, Leeser's account is the oldest known to me.

Everyone was satisfied enough with the design compromises to turn out for a joyous dedication, but the rift in the congregation between traditionalists and reformers was again soon apparent but got worse after 1860. The country was divided during the Civil War, and so was the congregation. There was no peace at Concord. The Reformers, made their case in the pages of Rabbi Wise's national Jewish newspaper The Israelite. They went ahead an introduced organ music, a choir singing, English translation of prayers, and mixed seating.  The rift culminated when the reformers, led by president August Falker, decreed that all men should take their hat OFF during services, and they also double annual dues to penalize the poorer - and more traditional - congregants.

According to the traditionalists:
"impure elements forced their way into [the congregation]. creating quarrels, enmity, lawsuits, and finally separation, through the unlucky choice of a president, who, like a Bavarian petty official, agitated and through low intrigues, heaping wrong upon wrong, deprived the members of their holiest right. (quoted in Rudolph, p. 69).
Subsequently, on June 6, 1864 a new congregation was formally organized by the old guard. Leopold Schwartz and Morris Thalheimer laid out the grievances of the group against the Concord congregation, and this was published in the The Occident and American Jewish Advocate and the Adath Jeshurun Congregation received a charter in March 1866. The new minyan met in a one-story building on Harrison Street.

Syracuse, NY. Adath Jeshurun (The Rosenbloom Shul).  Photo from Rudolph, From a Minyan to a Community, original courtesy Onondaga Historical Association.
Solomon Rosenbloom. Oil portrait in Collection of Temple Concord. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2019.
Solomon Rosenbloom, who had arrived in Syracuse from Bavaria in 1847, was part of the split, and in the 1880s, as his department store business prospered, he became the lead funder of a new synagogue building on Orange Street in 1887. Adath Jeshurun, with a stone foundation and wood frame construction with wood siding, came to be known as the ""Rosenbloom Shul," and Solomon was president of the congregation for twenty-five years. e died in 1896, but the congregation continued until 1925. Surviving members of the Rosenbloom family rejoined Temple Concord.

The new Rosenbloom Shul seated 256, and there were classrooms in the basement space which was elevated enough above ground to receive ample natural light.

In 1909 Temple Concord purchased parcel of land at the corner of Madison Street and University Avenue and began planning their present-day building which was dedicated on September 22, 1911. In 1912, the congregation sold 1851 building to a new Orthodox congregation, Tifereth Israel.  (“Teffaree Yisreal Purchases Synagogue,” The Syracuse Herald,  Feb. 24, 1912). The building is shown on the map of 1924 and again is visible in an aerial photo of 1931, but is gone in the City Atlas of 1938. I'll have to wait until I can do on-site library research to determine the exact date of its demolition.

Syracuse, NY. G.M. Hopkins, Atlas of the City of Syracuse New York, 1938. The former Temple Concord, then Tifereth Israel, has been demolished.
For more on Syracuse's Jewish Sites and Buildings see other entries in this series:

Former Beth Israel

Former Anshe Sfard 

Former Temple Beth El 

Coming soon: A look at the other early synagogue buildings of Syracuse, and a close look at the history and architecture of the present-day Temple Concord.