Synagogues and Jewish Centers

Brooklyn synagogues are important centers for Jewish communities. For generations, synagogues in Europe and the Middle East were primarily for adult male prayer and study.  In the US, they began to expand their roles to include other spiritual, cultural and educational activities for the whole family. The synagogue became a place to congregate, to celebrate life cycle events and social occasions.

Flatbush Jewish Center

Flatbush Jewish Center

Many synagogues began to build social halls where a wedding reception, bar mitzvah or other life cycle event could be hosted. Some synagogues also built adjacent Jewish Centers.  An example can be seen in the Brooklyn Jewish Center on Eastern Parkway, its cornerstone laid in 1920, the first synagogue to include a swimming pool and gymnasium, a model for other centers, it was a “vibrant modern amalgam of Judaism and Americanism,” and included a full-service kosher restaurant. At East Midwood Jewish Center, the building became the center of all things Jewish, a place to pray, party, socialize and send your children to school.

As the demands grew greater for places for Brooklyn Jews to socialize together, Jewish community centers flourished. These centers offered adult education classes, children’s camps, after school activities, sports leagues,  swimming pools and exercise facilities, senior citizen activities, to name a few.  Jewish community centers encourage Jewish continuity and have been important in educating immigrants about Jewish life. These centers include the Jewish Community House of Bensonhurst, the Sephardic Community Center, the Shore Front and Kings Bay YM-YWHA, to name a few. Their facilities offer a full program to meet the needs of children and adults of all ages.

Synagogues in Brooklyn offer the whole spectrum of religious choices, from many sects of Hasidic to varieties of Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and Renewal. Reflecting differences in liturgy and custom, some synagogues are also based on the geographical origins of the congregants or their ancestors, whether they are Egyptian, Syrian, Hungarian, Moroccan, Lithuanian, or Persian. Some synagogues are small shtibls, simple, often austere premises containing only a few tables and benches,while others are grand, landmarked temples, and some congregations meet in rented premises, lacking a building of their own.



My Jewish Learning’s List of Synagogues, Community Centers, Jewish schools, and More