Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Old and New Synagogues of Upstate New York: Hudson

Hudson, New York. Shiloh Baptist Church, Warren Street. Former Congregation Anshe Emet, 1913. Exterior. Photo: Samuel D, Gruber 2021.

Hudson, New York. Shiloh Baptist Church, Warren Street. Former Congregation Anshe Emet, 1913. Exterior. Photo: Samuel D, Gruber 2021.

Hudson, New York. Shiloh Baptist Church, Warren Street. Former Congregation Anshe Emet, 1913.Interior view to former Ark wall.  Photo: Samuel D, Gruber 2021.

 Hudson, New York. Shiloh Baptist Church, Warren Street. Former Congregation Anshe Emet, 1913. Stained-glass window above Aron ha-Kodesh (Ark). Note the use of Roman numerals for the Ten Commandments. This was unusual in an Orthodox synagogue. Photo: Samuel D, Gruber 2021.

 

  Hudson, New York. Shiloh Baptist Church, Warren Street. Former Congregation Anshe Emet, 1913. Detail of stained-glass window on Ark wall. Photo: Samuel D, Gruber 2021.

Greenport (Hudson), New York. Congregation Anshe Emet, Milton Holtzman, architect, 1968. Photo: Samuel D, Gruber 2021.

Old and New Synagogues of Upstate New York: Hudson

by Samuel D. Gruber

[updated July 6, 2021]

The pandemic is ebbing in New York State and I've begun to take some road trips, managing to add on visits to a few synagogues I've not seen before. Most synagogues are not open yet, but they probably will be by the fall. If I keep traveling the state I hope to be able to document many more this year. In between, I'll post about Upstate synagogues I've already seen and photographed, though the reports will not include pandemic changes. 

For July 4th weekend I was able to connect with my good friend David Kaufman, an historian of American Jewish culture and a student of synagogue history and architecture. Readers of this blog are probably most familiar with his excellent book Shul with a Pool (but I also recommend his highly original Jewhooing the Sixties, about American Jewish popular culture, too). 

David and I were fortunate that the Shiloh Baptist Church on Warren Street in Hudson had recently resumed in-person worship. The church building had been a synagogue from 1913 to 1966. I thank Rev. Alan E. Williams, Pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church, as well as many congregants, who welcomed and allowed us to photograph the building and its stained glass windows after Sunday services on July 4th.

 Hudson, New York. Shiloh Baptist Church, Warren Street. Former Congregation Anshe Emet, 1913.
Facade. Photo: Samuel D, Gruber 2021.

 Hudson, New York. Shiloh Baptist Church, Warren Street. Former Congregation Anshe Emet, 1913.
Facade. Photo: Samuel D, Gruber 2021.
 
 Hudson, New York. Shiloh Baptist Church, Warren Street. Former Congregation Anshe Emet, 1913.
 

The brick synagogue building was erected from 1909 to 1913 for the Orthodox Congregation Anshe Emet. Jews had been in Hudson since at least the mid-19th century, and the first identifiable grave in the Jewish cemetery is apparently from 1864. As the few surviving names on the original sections of the windows attest, this was originally a German speaking congregation with names like Oppenheim and Ohrstrom. But the congregation membership was augmented by the arrival of Eastern European Jews beginning in the 1880s.  You can read about the early history here

In 1966, the congregation sold the building to Shiloh Baptist Church. Anshe Emet, which had recently affiliated with the Conservative Movement, broke ground on a new suburban synagogue designed by Milton Holtzman 

So Jews and Black Baptists in Hudson have equally long histories in the Warren Street building, each of about 55 years. 

The three-bay facade of the old building still has most of its original decoration including a round window with a Hebrew inscription with the congregation's name encircling it, and two roundels with raised reliefs of Jewish stars on either side of the attic story. There may have been - and may still be - an inscription over the main entrance, but this is now covered with the name of the church. 

The church has maintained the building well. There have been some changes, but the women's gallery and some of the original stained-glass windows remain, including those on the Ark wall and one to the left (west) of the platform (duhan) in front of the ark. This has an image of Noah's Ark known from Reform Temples across the country (Charleston, SC, Savannah, GA, Jasper, AL, Virginia, MN, etc.), but I have not seen it before in an Orthodox synagogue. The other roundels on the side wall windows probably had Jewish symbols - but these have all been replaced by new Christian images.

 

Hudson, New York. Shiloh Baptist Church, Warren Street. Former Congregation Anshe Emet, 1913.

Stained glass of Noah's Ark. Photo: Samuel D, Gruber 2021.

 

Jasper, Mississippi.Temple Emanuel. Stained glass of Noah's Ark. Now located in the Jasper room at Temple Emanuel, Birmingham, MS. Photo: Samuel D, Gruber 2013

 

 
Savannah, Geroga. Congregation. Mivkeh Israel. Stained-glass of Noah's Ark. 
Photo: Samuel D, Gruber 2005

Inside, the Aron ha-Kodesh (Ark) is gone but one can see how there was a recess in the wall to allow depth, and presumably a larger wooden Ark protruded into the sanctuary. We were not able to get behind the building to see if the rear wall protrudes, too, as was often the case.  There is still an enclosure in front of the Ark wall that might have been the original bimah, though this may have been a duhan - a platform in front of the Aron, in which case there may have been a centrally placed bimah, too. We'll need to find an old photo or a plan to know for sure. The original pews have been replaced. 

One enters up steps from the sidewalk into a shallow vestibule from where stairs on either side still lead to the gallery, which in the synagogue was reserved for women. The stained-glass windows in the stairways appear original, but they have been augmented with Christian motifs. Today a projection booth has been built on the south part of the gallery over the vestibule, and this blocks the original - but still in situ - round window emblazoned with a Jewish Star.

 

Hudson, New York. Shiloh Baptist Church, Warren Street. Former Congregation Anshe Emet, 1913.Sanctuary interior view to .  entrance showing full gallery. Photo: Samuel D, Gruber 2021

Hudson, New York. Shiloh Baptist Church, Warren Street. Former Congregation Anshe Emet, 1913. Sanctuary gallery with church deacon and David Kaufman in conversation. Photo: Samuel D, Gruber 2021. 

Hudson, New York. Shiloh Baptist Church, Warren Street. Former Congregation Anshe Emet, 1913.
Sanctuary gallery. Photo: Samuel D, Gruber 2021.
 
 
Hudson, New York. Shiloh Baptist Church, Warren Street. Former Congregation Anshe Emet, 1913.
View of facade stained glass window from gallery. Photo: Samuel D, Gruber 2021.

Hudson, New York. Shiloh Baptist Church, Warren Street. Former Congregation Anshe Emet, 1913.
Stairway window. Photo: Samuel D, Gruber 2021.

The best stained-glass of the old synagogue is set in Ark wall, where two tall narrow matching arched windows flank the space where the Ark once was installed, and there is a round window above. The roundel shows the Ten Commandments embedded within a Magen David. Curiously for an Orthodox synagogue the commandments are represented by Roman numerals, though underneath there is a Hebrew inscription "Donated by Joseph Moses son of Isaac Barosky (?). The side windows combine symbolic representations of the temple with a menorah and a facade with two columns, presumably meant to be Jachin and Boaz. Dedication panels were at the base of each window. Only the one on the right is still legible. It mentions Ismar (?) Oppenheim.

Hudson, New York. Shiloh Baptist Church, Warren Street. Former Congregation Anshe Emet, 1913. Detail of stained glass window on Ark wall with Ten Commandments and donor inscription. Photo: Samuel D, Gruber 2021.

Hudson, New York. Shiloh Baptist Church, Warren Street. Former Congregation Anshe Emet, 1913. Stained glass window on Ark wall. Photo: Samuel D, Gruber 2021.

Hudson, New York. Shiloh Baptist Church, Warren Street. Former Congregation Anshe Emet, 1913. Detail of left stained glass window on Ark wall. Photo: Samuel D, Gruber 2021.
 
 
Hudson, New York. Shiloh Baptist Church, Warren Street. Former Congregation Anshe Emet, 1913. Detail of left stained glass window on Ark wall. Photo: Samuel D, Gruber 2021.

Hudson, New York. Shiloh Baptist Church, Warren Street. Former Congregation Anshe Emet, 1913. Detail of left stained glass window on Ark wall. Photo: Samuel D, Gruber 2021.

Hudson, New York. Shiloh Baptist Church, Warren Street. Former Congregation Anshe Emet, 1913. Detail of right stained glass window on Ark wall and the name of Ismar (?) Oppenheim.  Photo: Samuel D, Gruber 2021.

In 1966 Congregation Anshe Emet sold the Warren Street building to the Shiloh Baptist Church and broke ground on a new synagogue designed by Milton Holtzman on Joslen Boulevard in nearby suburban Greenport.

Greenport, New York. Congregation Anshe Emet, Milton Holtzman, architect, 1968. Photo: Samuel D, Gruber 2021.
 
Greenport, New York. Congregation Anshe Emet, Milton Holtzman, architect, 1968. Photo: Samuel D, Gruber 2021.
 
Greenport, New York. Congregation Anshe Emet, Milton Holtzman, architect, 1968. Photo: Samuel D, Gruber 2021.
 
Greenport, New York. Congregation Anshe Emet, Milton Holtzman, architect, 1968. Photo: Samuel D, Gruber 2021.
 
Greenport, New York. Congregation Anshe Emet, Milton Holtzman, architect, 1968. 
Photo: Anshe Emet Facebook page..

As for the new building - we were not able to get inside this time but will plan another visit. I know nothing about the architect except that he was based in Middletown. N.Y. and presumably (given his name), was Jewish. This building is still in use but it was closed due to the holiday or the pandemic. It is a spare modern structure, free standing and set back from the street in the typical fashion for 1960s synagogues. A sign near the road proclaims it presence.The main spaces spread out on one floor, but the building is set on a slope, so there a lower story with extra room in the rear, next to a parking area.

The interior, seen in a photo taken from the congregation's Facebook page, is austere. Like the contemporary synagogue architect Percival Goodman, Holtzman built in brick and glass. But Anshe Emet is more rectilinear, and seems designed on a rational grid. Natural light comes through a clerestory strip just below the ceiling. From the outside, however one sees the shingled roof of the sanctuary rising over the horizontal box that defines the whole structure. Perhaps this use of wood is meant to recall the wooden synagogues of Eastern Europe which were being "rediscovered" by Americans through the circulation of the Piechotka's book Wooden Synagogues, published in English in 1959. The interior fittings were designed by Albert Wood & Five Sons, a prolific interior design company that worked on scores of churches and synagogues in the 1960s. The trapezoidal form of the Ark recalls some of Goodman's designs from the 1960s.  

The development and change of these two building is a case study on the evolution and transformations of American Jewish communities. This story told again and again, in city after city. The physical remains give us entry into this past, but there is still much to explore, interpret and understand.

 

 


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