Brooklyn has the greatest density of Jews in the world and the faces of Judaism are reflected in its people. From the various sects of Hasidic Jews to progressive and humanistic Judaism, Brooklyn has it all.
Religious life in Brooklyn takes on many different faces during the course of the year. It also varies by neighborhood. From Williamsburg to Borough Park, from Crowne Heights to Brighton Beach, the neighborhood scene changes depending on the group, its ancestry, as well as its adaptations to Brooklyn’s life.
Congregation Ahavas Israel is a 120 year-old synagogue located in the Greenpoint Historic District in North Brooklyn, New York. The synagoguge holds Sabbath and holiday services, all of which are followed by communal meals. It also organizes classes by visiting rabbis and scholars, and hosts Hanukah and parties as well as other communal events. Ahavas Israel is the only remaining Jewish congregation in a neighborhood that once supported five synagogues.… Read More »Congregation Ahavas Israel
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. Many synagogues began to build social halls where a… Read More »Synagogues and Jewish Centers
The Young Israel was established on December 6, 1921 and held its first Synagogue Shabbat Services on March 3, 1922. In its many years of existence, we have been active on several fronts. The Young Israel was instrumental in providing assistance in rescue efforts for our suffering brethren during the Holocaust, financial aid during the early years of our beloved State of Israel and in its wars of existence, and support to our brothers behind the Iron Curtain. Here at home, we have been the leading Congregation in the community – the force behind the creation of the local Mikveh, the Gemilut Chassadim Organization and the Greater Flatbush Eruv. We have also assisted local Yeshivot, Rabbinic Courts and the needy of our community. In addition to being open all day, every day, we have provided a myriad of services to our membership, including religious and educational enrichment, youth and outreach programs and social activities.
Brooklyn has a large number of synagogues, and they come in many varieties. You can easily find various types of Orthodox shuls,as well as Conservative, Reform, non-denominational; Ashkenazi and Sephardi. Congregations with perhaps a bare minyan and others with a few thousand members. But for all the synagogues Brooklyn has within its midst, it has also seen many synagogues disappear. Some have merged with other nearby congregations while others closed up, their members and assets dispersed. Dozens of shuls have been closed up and the buildings torn down, other structures erected on their lots. Other closed synagogues still exist in a bittersweet fashion: their buildings still stand but the sites are now occupied by churches, schools, medical facilities, or even serve as private residences.
“Nobody in the world, no one, looks out for rabbis like Rabbi Joe Potasnik.”
So spoke Rabbi David-Seth Kirshner, president of the New York Board of Rabbis, on Thursday night. The crowd, which spilled out into standing-room, had gathered to honor Rabbi Joseph Potasnik on the 42nd anniversary of his service to Congregation Mount Sinai. Joining congregants were elected officials, noted dignitaries and special guests such as recently-retired New York Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera. As events unfolded, it was again clear that each person in the rotunda of Brooklyn Borough Hall, and the ceremonial courtroom, is as dear to Rabbi Potasnik as he is to them.
Earlier in the evening, local elected officials presented proclamations to Rabbi Potasnik. Headlining that part of the ceremony was a tribute from Monsignor David Cassato, whom Potasnik said is “my own rabbi.” Msgr. Cassato is a NYPD chaplain, and pastor of St. Athanasius Roman Catholic Church, one of the largest parishes in Brooklyn.
Among the elected officials were Borough President Eric Adams, longtime State Assemblywoman Joan Millman and City Councilmember Steven Levin. Also saluting Rabbi Potasnik, but free of the responsibility of issuing Proclamations, was immediate past Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, who verbally proclaimed Potasnik as “America’s rabbi.”
Rabbi Joshua Fishman and congregants Courtesy Martin Needelman
Brooklyn’s oldest Orthodox and Williamsburg’s last non-Hasidic Orthodox Synagogue, Congregation Beth Jacob Ohev Shalom (CBJOS), will hold its first-ever model Seder this Sunday to mark the upcoming celebration of Passover.
The model Seder is a way for the Rodney Street Synagogue to reintegrate the Jewish community in North Brooklyn and specifically to reach out to the influx of people who have recently moved into the neighborhood, as well as to introduce the Jewish culture, history and traditions to those who might not necessarily be devout practitioners of the faith.
Author, tour guide and veteran teacher Ellen Levitt has created and conducted two bicycle tours for the Brooklyn Jewish Historical Initiative. A lifelong resident of Brooklyn, and the author of the trilogy The Lost Synagogues of New York City (Avotaynu), Levitt conducted her tour “Lost Synagogues of Greater Brownsville”, on Sunday, June 14; and her tour “Lost Synagogues of Flatbush and East Flatbush,” on Sunday, August 2. Levitt led groups… Read More »BJHI Bike Tours
Magen David Synagogue Documentary about the landmarked Magen David Synagogue in Bensonhurst Brooklyn, produced by Brooklyn Jewish Historical Initiative in cooperation with Sephardic Heritage Project. 2019 View BJHI Video Library
Submitted by Judith Greenwald Among our early members was Civil War hero Brigadier-General Leopold C. Newman. At the age of 22, already a lawyer and engaged to be married, he volunteered for duty in the 31st New York Infantry Regiment. Newman fought in seventeen engagements and was promoted for valor to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. On May 3, 1863 he led his company in the charge of Mary’s Heights in… Read More »Kane Street Synagogue’s Heroic Congregant