Shearith Israel, the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue, is America’s first Jewish congregation.
Twenty-three Sephardic Jews (Spanish & Portuguese) fleeing the Spanish Inquisition in Recife, Brazil arrived in New Amsterdam (now New York) in September 1654.
They were not welcomed, but stood up for the right to live here. They won permission and thereby made New York an open city.
The Sephardi founded America’s first Jewish community, Congregation Shearith Israel.
Shearith Israel was New York City’s only Jewish congregation until 1825. It’s members served in the American Revolution.
Members of the community also played roles in the founding of Columbia University, the New York Stock Exchange, Mt. Sinai Hospital and many other renowned New York institutions. Emma Lazarus, the writer of The New Colossus which is engraved on the Statue of Liberty, was a member.
Shearith Israel is an Orthodox congregation. It played important roles in the founding of the Jewish Theological Seminary, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of American, and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.
Over the years, the congregation prospered and grew. This, the community’s fifth synagogue, opened in 1897. The first was dedicated on Mill Street in 1730. Stones and artifacts from the first and subsequent synagogues are part of the temple. The building even contains a replica of the Mill Street Synagogue.
Today Shearith Israel is led by Rabbi Dr. Meir Y. Soloveichik.
Shearith Israel produces a very good series of weekly Shabbat and holiday handouts here.
January 25-26, 2019 ~ Shabbat Yithro contemplates the visit of Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law and how a system of rules were needed for the group to survive in the desert.
Visiting Shearith Israel
8 West 70th Street, New York, NY 10023
(at Central Park West)
Upper West Side, Manhattan
- (A) (C) or (B) to 72nd Street
- (1) (2) to 66th St – Lincoln Center
- (1) (2) (3) to 72nd Street / Broadway
For a calendar of services and more information, visit shearithisrael.org