Our Mission & History
Park Avenue Synagogue seeks to inspire, educate, and support our membership towards living passion-filled Jewish lives. Through spirited prayer, study, observance and acts of kindness we aspire to foster deep connections with each other, our Torah, our God, the people and State of Israel and our shared humanity. In practicing a Judaism filled with love, literacy, reverence, compassion, and joy, we strive to make our ancient tradition compelling and welcoming to contemporary Jewry and to serve as a light unto our fellow Jews and the nations.
The Park Avenue Synagogue – Agudat Yesharim, The Association of the Righteous – is a Conservative congregation founded in 1882. From modest and humble beginnings, it has grown into one of the major congregations in the Conservative movement.
In 1882, a group of German-speaking Jews founded a synagogue and named it Temple Gates of Hope. A church building at 115 East 86th Street was converted into a synagogue which was soon known as the Eighty-Sixth Street Temple. Some twelve years after its founding, the synagogue joined together with Congregation Agudat Yesharim, which became the Hebrew name of the merged congregation. (The name is engraved in the cornerstone of the PAS school building at the corner of Madison Avenue and 87th Street.) The sermons in the congregation were still preached in German.
Later amalgamations were to come. A nearby synagogue, the Seventy-Second Street Temple, was itself a product of the earlier merger of two congregations that had had their beginnings on the Lower East Side in the 1840’s, Beth Israel and Bikkur Cholim. After they combined, they moved uptown to Lexington Avenue and 72nd Street and in 1920 this congregation joined with the Eighty-Sixth Street Temple, Agudat Yesharim.
In 1923 the Eighty-Sixth Street Temple petitioned the State of New York to have its name changed to the Park Avenue Synagogue. Three years later a new sanctuary was constructed on 87th Street, dedicated in March of 1927. This is our present sanctuary. In 1928 the last of the mergers took place when Atereth Israel, a congregation of Alsatian Jews who worshipped in their building on East 82nd Street, added their strength to the Park Avenue Synagogue.
The congregation has met the challenges of time with constant change and growth. As the congregation grew, there were new needs, and they were met. In 1954, a new building, the Milton Steinberg House, was dedicated to the memory of the late distinguished spiritual leader, Rabbi Milton Steinberg, to serve the community and the religious school. With the passing of time, however, and the burgeoning of the Upper East Side as a major Jewish community, the facilities of the Milton Steinberg House were no longer adequate to meet the demands of the ever-growing religious school. The dream for another new building was coupled with another idea – to make this building a living memorial to the more than one million Jewish children who were slaughtered by the Nazis during the Holocaust.
Dedicating the new school building to the memory of the murdered children would give them a meaningful immortality. The building would serve to assure the Jewish future by providing a space for new generations of knowledgeable and proud Jews to learn about their heritage. Though they cannot bring back the million Jewish children who perished, these young Jews would still rob the Nazis of their hoped-for victory – the final solution. The traditions, the history, the insights, and the wisdom of our precious heritage will be preserved and raised to new heights by educating generations of Jewish children who will carry their faith with pride.
The dedications of the building and of the sculptures memorializing the martyred children took place on two memorable days – December 1 and December 8, 1980, the week of Hanukkah – a high point in the annals of the Congregation’s history.
During the first fifty years in the history of the present congregation, eight rabbis served as its spiritual leaders. In 1933 Rabbi Milton Steinberg and Cantor David J. Putterman came to the Park Avenue Synagogue, which now became a Conservative congregation. Rabbi Steinberg served seventeen years and Cantor Putterman forty-three years. In 1957, Rabbi Judah Nadich became the spiritual leader of the congregation. He was joined by Cantor David Lefkowitz in 1976. Rabbi David H. Lincoln, our present Rabbi Emeritus, began in 1987, and retired in the summer of 2008. Rabbi Kenneth A. Stern served our Congregation from 1996 through the end of June 2008. In July 2008 Rabbi Elliot J. Cosgrove began serving our Congregation as Senior Rabbi, with Rabbi Steven I. Rein becoming our Assistant Rabbi in the summer of 2009. Cantor Nancy Abramson joined our Clergy in 1997 and served the Congregation until June, 2011, when she became Director of the H.L. Miller Cantorial School at The Jewish Theological Seminary. Cantor Azi Schwartz came to Park Avenue Synagogue in August, 2011, as Cantor and Music Director.
The synagogue building is Moorish in architecture with one of the most beautiful cast stone facades in New York. The interior of the sanctuary provides seating for 1200 during the High Holy Days. Moorish decoration is used throughout, from Arabesque dadoes to a “mugarnas” design for the octagonal domed ceiling. The sanctuary, designed by architect Walter Schneider in 1926, marks the end of a period beginning in Europe in the 1850’s when the Moorish style was often used for synagogues. For this and many other facets, the building has definite historical significance.The synagogue boasted of 240 members when it celebrated its fiftieth anniversary. Today, after celebrating our 125th anniversary, Park Avenue Synagogue has approximately 1,500 families and is considered one of the leading Conservative congregations in the country.
A champion for social justice, civil rights, and the Jewish people, Stephen Wise (1874–1949) was one of the most prominent US Jewish leaders of the 20th century.
Among his many accomplishments, Wise cofounded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1914, founded the American Jewish Congress in 1920, became president of the Zionist Organization of America in 1936, and served as a member of President Roosevelt’s Advisory Commission on Political Refugees from 1938 to 1945.
In 1905, Wise was under consideration to serve as rabbi at Temple Emanu–El in New York City. When he learned that his sermons would be reviewed in advance by the temple’s board of trustees, he withdrew himself from consideration and founded a “free” synagogue where anyone who addresses the congregation can say what he or she wishes.
Leaders of all beliefs have spoken in our sanctuary, including President Woodrow Wilson, Martin Luther King Jr., Eleanor Roosevelt, Bishop Desmond Tutu, Carl Sagan, Justice Louis Brandeis, and Albert Einstein.
We were the first synagogue to install a female rabbi and are among the first synagogues to open a shelter for the homeless.
Behind this striking history lies the belief that Reform Judaism, rooted in traditional Jewish values, is a vital force in the world, and that worship and study are catalysts for action.
order to develop a common understanding of our basic function and unique identity, and to enable leadership to develop standards and programs, the following shall be our mission:
To provide a place of religious worship so that our members may develop a relationship with God.
To promote the principles of Conservative Judaism as an instrument of religious and spiritual education for our members.
To ensure the continuity of the Jewish people and nourish an appreciation of the meaning and significance of our faith, reflecting it in the daily pattern of our lives.
To foster the principles and practice of Conservative Judaism and our unique heritage within our homes.
To promote fellowship in the Jewish community and concern for the larger community in which we live.
To recognize the State of Israel as a central element of our faith and encourage continuing support for its needs.
As Pirkei Avot teaches us, “The world stands on three things:
Torah, Avodah and G’milut Chasadim [study, worship and deeds of lovingkindness].”
So, too, the synagogue. At Temple Emanu-El, we encourage our members, young and old, to gather in an atmosphere both warm and awe-inspiring, as we share our moments of joy as well as our times of sadness, immerse ourselves in the richness and beauty of our tradition, and act upon our tradition’s values in the world around us.
If you are considering membership, then know that we welcome all who wish to participate in Jewish life: singles, couples and families in all their forms; interfaith couples; individuals with disabilities; all people regardless of age, race, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or financial means. I hope you choose to make Temple Emanu-El your spiritual home and family and that you will feel free to contact me with any questions you may have. I very much would enjoy the opportunity to meet with you personally.
If you already are part of our community, then I would enjoy getting to know you better as well, to learn from you about the passions and commitments that inspire your involvement, and to gain an understanding of how Temple Emanu-El can further engage and stimulate those interests.
So, if you are in the neighborhood, please come and visit; our Sabbath services are open to all. And, if you are able to visit us only online, then enjoy our worship through our live-streaming feed. Either way, we embrace you as part of our Emanu-El family.
Rabbi Joshua M. Davidson
Kehila Kedosha Janina (the Holy Community of Janina) is the only Romaniote synagogue in the Western Hemisphere. Romaniote Jews are a unique community of Jewish people whose history in Greece dates back over two thousand three hundred years to the time of Alexander the Great. The Romaniotes are historically distinct from the Sephardim, who settled in Greece after the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492.
Our congregation was first organized in New York in 1906 by Greek-speaking Romaniote Jews from the city of Ioannina in Northwestern Greece. In the early twentieth century there were hundreds of other synagogues on the Lower East Side that served Ashkenazi Yiddish-speaking Jews or Sephardic Spanish-speaking Jews. Needing a place of their own where they could preserve their unique traditions, customs, liturgy, and language, property was purchased at 280 Broome Street and the congregation opened its doors to worship at its current location in 1927.
For the past 90 years, KKJ has served the Romaniote community on the Lower East Side and after the closing of nearby Sephardic synagogues, many of the remaining neighborhood Sephardim. In 1997, a Museum was created in the women’s gallery to tell the story of this distinct community to a world that knew so little about them. Today, KKJ is proud to be one of only a handful of active synagogues that remain on the Lower East Side.
The synagogue is a designated New York City landmark and continues to hold services every Shabbat as well as all Jewish holidays. In addition, it houses a museum about Greek Jewry that is open to the public every Sunday, as well as by appointment. The museum serves as a repository for Romaniote and Sephardic Greek Jewish history, both in Greece and on the Lower East Side, and hosts many educational events including lectures, book signings, movie screenings, and concerts.
Temple Israel of Great Neck is a diverse, intergenerational, egalitarian congregation dedicated to the pursuit of lifelong Jewish learning, connection to God, and devotion to Torah, Israel and Klal Yisrael (the Jewish people).
Guided by the principles of the Conservative movement, we seek to model and inspire a commitment to Jewish living and to the discovery of the joy, meaning and relevance of Judaism in our everyday lives.
Our synagogue is a makom t’fillah, a place of prayer, and more. It’s a place where we celebrate and commiserate; a place where we engage texts, ideas, culture and current events related to Judaism; a place where Torah is studied and nurtured so that its sparks can illuminate our lives and our world. We are old and young, diverse in background and perspective, on a spectacular collective journey.
The Edmond J. Safra Synagogue
The name “Edmond J. Safra” is synonymous with philanthropy and benevolence. A Lebanese-born Jew who rose to prominence in the banking industry, Mr. Safra supported a remarkable diversity of institutions and charities during his lifetime. While his legacy of giving affected Jewish communities worldwide, his generosity may have had its greatest impact on the various Sephardic Jewish communities in the United States and abroad. An example of how Mr. Safra’s policy of supporting new Jewish institutions continues even after his untimely death can be found in the Edmond J. Safra Synagogue.
During his lifetime, Mr. Safra was often in New York City and spent many Shabbatoth in Manhattan. Noting the absence of a formal synagogue and communal center for the Sephardim of the Upper East Side of Manhattan, Mr. Safra expressed a desire to build a central house of worship in the area. As was his practice, he undertook to move this idea from a vision to a reality. Through the dedication and efforts of his wife, Mrs. Lily Safra, and a team of skilled artisans, the synagogue was completed in December 2002. Dignitaries including the Chief Rabbi of Israel and Mayor Michael Bloomberg attended an official inauguration of the building. Praise for the edifice was exceeded only by praise for the man who foresaw it and his wife who completed it.
Since opening its doors in March, 2003, the Edmond J. Safra Synagogue has become the communal center that its namesake imagined it would. Under the spiritual guidance of Rabbi Elie Abadie, the synagogue offers regular religious services including daily minyanim, a bi-weekly Bet Midrash program, liturgy studies and daily tehilim readings. Moreover, the synagogue has become a prominent social, cultural and educational center having hosted conferences and lectures, parenting and cooking classes, singles’ events, children’s programs and a variety of cultural and educational events.
The Edmond J. Safra Synagogue is well-located on the Upper East Side of Manhattan at 11 East 63rd Street between Madison and Fifth Avenues and regularly hosts guests from around the world. The congregation is comprised of many families from a medley of Middle Eastern backgrounds and it is prepared to welcome all those interested in worshipping with this new, vibrant Jewish community.
Central Synagogue is a thriving Reform congregation in Midtown Manhattan, serving 2,300 families and the larger community.
Dubbed by the Wall Street Journal as New York’s first “mega-shul,” Central Synagogue is one of the largest Jewish congregations in North America and the oldest synagogue in New York City in continuous use.
Every Friday evening, more than 500 people join us for Shabbat worship in our breathtaking Main Sanctuary (a National Landmark) and more than 100 virtual visitors join via live streaming.
We are members of:
The Union for Reform Judaism (URJ)
Comprised of nearly 900 Reform congregations in North America.
The World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ)
Representing liberal, progressive, and Reform Jewish communities on every continent.
ARZA (The Reform Israel Fund)
The largest supporter of the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism (IMPJ) and the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC).
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC)
The Reform Movement’s hub for social justice and advocacy in Washington, DC.
- Angela W. Buchdahl
- Senior Rabbi
(212) 838-5122 Ext. 1000
Rabbi Angela Warnick Buchdahl serves as the senior rabbi of Central Synagogue in New York City, the first woman to lead the large Reform congregation in its 175-year history. Rabbi Buchdahl first joined Central Synagogue as senior cantor in 2006. In 2014, she was chosen by the congregation to be senior rabbi.
Rabbi Buchdahl was invested as a cantor in 1999 and also ordained as a rabbi in 2001 by the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York where she was a Wexner Graduate fellow. She earned a B.A. in Religious Studies from Yale University in 1994. Born in Korea to a Jewish American father and a Korean Buddhist mother, Rabbi Buchdahl is the first Asian American to be ordained as cantor or rabbi in North America. Prior to her service at Central Synagogue, Rabbi Buchdahl served as associate rabbi/cantor at Westchester Reform Temple in Scarsdale, N.Y.
Rabbi Buchdahl has been nationally recognized for her innovations in leading worship, which draw large crowds both in the congregation’s historic Main Sanctuary and via live stream and cable broadcast to viewers in more than 100 countries.
Rabbi Buchdahl has been featured in dozens of news outlets including the Today Show, NPR, PBS and was listed as one of Newsweek’s “America’s 50 Most Influential Rabbis.” She serves on the boards of Auburn Theological Seminary, Avodah Jewish Service Corps, and the UJA-Federation of NY.
Rabbi Buchdahl and her husband Jacob Buchdahl have three children.
NSJC is a welcoming and inclusive, egalitarian Conservative Jewish congregation located on the North Shore of Suffolk County Long Island, New York. We embrace people from all levels and backgrounds of Jewish knowledge and practice, including interfaith families, and we offer a continuum of engaging, stimulating and dynamic programs and worship services to meet a diversity of needs and age ranges, from preschoolers to seniors.
Our congregation’s goal for the 21st century is to preserve the bright future of our sacred community and fulfill our potential as a vibrant center of Judaism in Suffolk County.
Park East Synagogue is dedicated to providing the opportunity for spiritual growth, Jewish education and spiritual comfort for individuals, families, and our community.
Park East Synagogue is inclusive of all people seeking a meaningful Jewish life, regardless of degree of observance, knowledge of Jewish tradition, age, or affiliation.
Park East Synagogue is committed to providing inspiring Jewish and general studies education to children and to adults; its Religious School, Early Childhood, and Day School with its emphasis on cultivating a Jewish life rich in tradition and unrivalled in general studies has been, and continues to be, a source of character and vitality for its congregation.
The synagogue’s influence, strength and dynamism in the community derive from the members of our congregation. We value and honor the role our congregants fulfill in defining and shaping our future and that of the Jewish community, in New York City and beyond.
Welcome to Congregation Shearith Israel, America’s first Jewish congregation, founded in 1654 by 23 Jews of Spanish and Portuguese descent. Today, Jews of all backgrounds make up our welcoming, traditional community. Explore this site, and then visit the synagogue to experience the beauty and vitality of this Jewish and American treasure.
Congregation Shearith Israel, the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue in the City of New York, was founded in 1654, the first Jewish congregation to be established in North America. Its founders were twenty-three Jews, mostly of Spanish and Portuguese origin, who had been living in Recife, Brazil. When the Portuguese defeated the Dutch for control of Recife, and brought with them the Inquisition, the Jews of that area left. Some returned to Amsterdam, where they had originated. Others went to places in the Caribbean such as St. Thomas, Jamaica, Surinam and Curacao, where they founded sister Sephardic congregations. One group of twenty-three Jews, after a series of unexpected events, landed in New Amsterdam. They were not welcomed by Governor Peter Stuyvesant, who did not wish to permit Jews to settle there. However, these pioneers fought for their rights and won permission to remain. During colonial days, the Jewish community was relatively small.
Even from its earliest days, Shearith Israel had Sephardic and Ashkenazi members. Although the synagogue service follows the custom of Spanish and Portuguese Jews, the membership is diverse, and at present is composed of both Sephardim and Ashkenazim who work together in harmony for the well-being of the Congregation and community.
Until the year 1730, the Congregation met in rented quarters. In 1730, Shearith Israel consecrated its first synagogue building on Mill Street, now known as South William Street. Many of the furnishings of that building are preserved in our Little Synagogue.
Shearith Israel was the only Jewish Congregation in New York City from 1654 until 1825. During that entire span of history, all of the Jews of New York belonged to this Congregation, which provided for all the needs of the Jewish Community, from birth to death. It offered education in both religious and general subjects, provided kosher meat and Passover provisions, and performed a wide variety of charitable and other functions for the Jewish people.
As the Jewish community rapidly grew during the latter 19th and early 20th centuries, Shearith Israel and its members were involved in important communal enterprises. The Sisterhood operated settlement houses on the Lower East Side, to provide for the needs of the newly arriving Sephardic immigrants. Shearith Israel and its members were actively involved in the New York Kehillah movement, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, Federation of Jewish Philanthropies, United Jewish Appeal and other communal charity societies.
With the establishment of a public school system in New York, Shearith Israel operated a religious school for children, endowed in 1802 by a bequest from Meyer Polonies. This school—still bearing the Polonies name—continues to provide supplementary Jewish education to children of the community to this day.
Shearith Israel’s Rabbi Dr. Henry Pereira Mendes—who served the Congregation from 1877 until his death is 1937—was founder and first President of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America. Dr. Mendes, together with Rabbi Sabato Morais of Congregation Mikveh Israel in Philadelphia, were co-founders of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, which they envisioned as a place to train American Orthodox rabbis. Dr. Mendes was involved in the founding of the New York Board of Jewish Ministers (now known as the New York Board of Rabbis), the Lexington School for the Deaf, and Montefiore Hospital.
Shearith Israel’s Rabbi Dr. David de Sola Pool—who served Shearith Israel for the period spanning 1907 until his death in 1970—was actively involved in work on behalf of newly arriving Sephardic immigrants during the first decades of the 20th century. In 1928, he founded the Union of Sephardic Congregations, under whose auspices he prepared and published Sephardic prayer books with his own elegant English translation. Dr. Pool and his wife Tamar were leaders in the Young Judea Youth Movement of Hadassah. Dr. Pool was an important figure in the Joint Distribution Committee, the Jewish Welfare Board, the New York Board of Rabbis, the American Jewish Historical Society and more. He served as editor and translator of the Ashkenazic prayer book published by the Rabbinical Council of America.
Members of Shearith Israel were actively involved in the founding of such institutions as the New York Stock Exchange, the Mt. Sinai Hospital (originally named Jews’ Hospital), the 92nd Street Y, the American Sephardi Federation, Sephardic House, and the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals. They have been leaders on the Boards of Yeshiva University, the American Jewish Committee, the New-York Historical Society, the Metropolitan Opera, the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, and so many other educational, philanthropic and cultural institutions.
The Bayit (home in Hebrew) is more than just a synagogue. Please join us and find your way to connect through Tefillah, Torah Study, Chessed, Youth Activities, Inclusion Programs, Israel Advocacy and more.
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