You are here: Home/Uncategorized/ The BroadsheetDAILY – 4/8/22 – America’s First Synagogue Celebrates Anniversary at Site Where, Centuries Before Liberty’s Lamp, Lower Manhattan Offered Refuge to Persecuted Jews
The BroadsheetDAILY – 4/8/22 – America’s First Synagogue Celebrates Anniversary at Site Where, Centuries Before Liberty’s Lamp, Lower Manhattan Offered Refuge to Persecuted Jews
America’s First Synagogue Celebrates Anniversary at Site Where, Centuries Before Liberty’s Lamp, Lower Manhattan Offered Refuge to Persecuted Jews
An engraving of the original Mill Street Synagogue, which opened in Lower Manhattan (on what is now South William Street) in 1730.
On April 8, 1730, the seventh day of that year’s Passover, the fledgling Jewish community of New York City consecrated the Mill Street Synagogue, located on what is now South William Street. They called their new temple “Shearith Israel,” which translates literally as, “remnant of Israel.” It was the first Jewish house of worship in North America.
Today (Friday, April 8) marks the 292nd anniversary of that founding. The occasion will be observed by the Lower Manhattan Historical Association, in partnership with more than a dozen other organizations, at a ceremony at 26 South William Street (between Broad and Beaver Streets), during which Joseph Potasnik, vice president of the New York Board of Rabbis, will be honored with the Gershom Mendes Seixas Religious Freedom Award. The ceremony, which starts at noon, will be followed by a reception at nearby Fraunces Tavern.
By the time of Shearith Israel’s founding, however, New York’s Jewish community was already almost 100 years old. Their story begins in 1492, when Jews who refused to convert to Christianity were ordered to leave Spain. Five years later, a similar Edict of Expulsion was issued in Portugal. Tens of thousands of Jews fled from both nations. By the 1640s, several thousand had landed in the New World, where they were drawn to Dutch colonies (as a result of that kingdom’s policy of religious tolerance), such as the Caribbean island of Curaçao, and parts of what is now Brazil.
Strangely enough, very few came during this period to the Dutch colony of New Netherland, or its principal city, New Amsterdam (now Manhattan Island)—perhaps dissuaded by its reputation for welcoming a broad range of Christian Protestant denominations, but being among the least tolerant of Holland’s overseas colonies in its policy toward Jews.
This map from 1900 attempts to recreate the location of the Mill Street Synagogue by combing tracings of earlier maps (from the 1700 and 1800s) with a superimposed view of the then-contemporary street grid.
But in 1654, Portugal conquered the Dutch colony in Brazil. The new administration quickly showed itself to be as staunchly Catholic (and as militantly anti-Semitic) as its home government in Europe. Among the first institutions that the Portuguese set up was the Inquisition, which quickly began searching for Jews.
In that year, 23 Jewish refugees set sail from Brazil for New Amsterdam, where the Dutch governor, Peter Stuyvesant attempted to ban them. But Stuyvesant’s word was not final. He was, in effect, a corporate executive in the Dutch West India Company, and needed permission from his bosses in Holland. He wrote to company’s board, arguing that, “Jewish settlers should not be granted the same liberties enjoyed by Jews in Holland, lest members of other persecuted minority groups, such as Roman Catholics, be attracted to the colony.”
The directors sent this reply on April 26, 1655: “We observe that it would be unreasonable and unfair, especially because of the considerable loss sustained by the Jews in the taking of Brazil and also because of the large amount of capital, which they invested in shares of this Company. After many consultations we have decided and resolved upon a certain petition made by said Portuguese Jews, that they shall have permission to sail and trade in New Netherland and to live and remain there provided the poor among them shall not become a burden to the Company, or the community, but be supported by their own nation. You will govern yourself accordingly.”
Stuyvesant had no choice but to comply. He appears to have consoled himself by prohibiting the Jews from erecting a synagogue (ordering them instead to gather for worship in their homes), and by publicly torturing Quakers.
This 1728 ledger shows the names and amounts pledged by Jewish congregants during the fund raising drive to build the Mill Street Synagogue.
Ten years later, however, the British seized New Amsterdam. This proved propitious, because in 1657, Oliver Cromwell England had permitted Jews to return to England (which had expelled them in 1290). The new rulers of what had become New York had very little interested in suppressing Jews.
By the 1660s, the nascent Jewish congregation had named itself Shearith Israel, and was informally known as, “the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue,” in a nod to its origins among refugees from persecution on the Iberian Peninsula.
For decades, the worshipers met in the rented loft of a horse-powered grist mill, located just east of the Broad Canal, on what is now Broad Street. (This location enabled nearby farmers to grind recently harvested grain into flour, before loading it onto ships bound for England.) As the young city’s street grid expanded, the path in front of the mill became known as Mill Street. (The same thoroughfare is now called South William Street, but a fragmentary echo of the former streetscape survives nearby as Mill Lane, which runs for about 60 feet between South William and Stone Streets.)
In 1730, the congregants of Shearith Israel petitioned John Montgomerie, the British governor of New York for permission to build their own house of worship, rather than continuing to meet in the loft of the grist mill. (Two years earlier, in anticipation of receiving approval, they had begun a fund-raising campaign to purchase land and erect a building to their own specifications.) Once Montgomerie had given his blessing, they moved ahead with the construction of the Mill Street Synagogue, a small masonry building on a lot next door to the mill in which they had been meeting for almost a century.
The South William Street location that once housed the Mill Street Synagogue is today home to a large parking garage.
The structure they erected, which appears to have been designed to be inconspicuous, stood beside a now-vanished creek, which supplied water for the ritual mikvah bath. By 1846, historian John Fannin Watson recalled in his book, “Olden Time in New York,” that “I once heard from the Phillips family, that in early times when the Jews first held their worship there, they had a living spring… in which they were accustomed to perform their ablutions and cleanings according to the rites of their religion.”
Because there were no seminaries to train rabbis in America in the 1700s, Shearith Israel relied upon self-taught spiritual leaders. Among these was Gershom Mendes Seixas, for whom the award that will be bestowed today on Rabbi Potasnik is named. Seixas took over as cantor (and de facto clergyman) at the age of 23, cultivating friendships with the leaders of other religious denominations in New York (especially Episcopalians), many of whom attended his services and invited him to speak in their churches.
When the American Revolution began, Seixas threw in his lot (and that of his congregation) with the Patriot cause, choosing to close Shearith Israel and leave New York, rather than swear allegiance to the British. (During the Revolution, members of the Mill Street Synagogue congregation defended both the fight for independence from British rule, and the right to religious liberty, speaking out against a religious test in Pennsylvania.)
The temple remained shuttered until Seixas’s return in 1784. Five years later, he was among the guests of honor at George Washington’s inauguration, a few blocks away from the synagogue. Seixas also went on to help reopen King’s College, under its new name: Columbia University. (He was appointed its first Jewish trustee, and remained the only one until 1928, when Benjamin Cardozo was appointed to the board.)
Lower Manhattan Historical Society president James Kaplan (right) and then-City Council member Margaret Chin at the 2019 ceremony in which South William Street was co-named as “Mill Street Synagogue/Seixas Way.”
Other members of Shearith Israel went on to collaborate in the founding of the New York Stock Exchange, Mt. Sinai Hospital, the 92nd Street Y, and many more renowned New York institutions.
From the day of its founding, Shearith Israel was the only Jewish congregation in New York City, until 1825. The same synagogue still exists, although it is now headquartered on Central Park West, at West 70th Street. That structure, built in 1897, is, the synagogue’s fifth home. The original Mill Street structure was rebuilt and expanded in 1818, after which the congregation moved to Crosby Street (in 1834), then to 19th Street (1860), and finally to the Upper West Side. The congreation’s first home, on South William Street, was demolished in 1820, and is now the site of a parking garage.
James Kaplan, president and chairman of the Lower Manhattan Historical Association noted that, “at this spot in 1730, with the support of Jewish congregations from around the world the nascent Jewish community of New York City dedicated the first synagogue in North America. Very few people know that this is where the American Jewish community began and grew.”
While scholars have long acknowledged and documented the significance of the Mill Street synagogue, there was for centuries no marker to acknowledge its place in history. That began to change in 2018, when Mr. Kaplan embarked on a campaign to commemorate the location. This culminated in the following year, when the stretch of South William Street near the site was co-named as “Mill Street Synagogue/Seixas Way.”
Taking the ‘Our’ Out of ‘Arcade’
CB1 Opposes Deal to Hand Developer 4,000-Plus Square Feet of Public Space
Community Board 1 (CB1) is reiterating its opposition to a plan that will allow a real estate developer to privatize more than 4,000 square feet of public space, in exchange for a promise to enliven an adjacent plaza.
At issue are the arcades—columned porticos that adorn the ground-floor facade of 200 Water Street—which the building owner hopes to enclose, thus creating additional retail space, which can be monetized. (The same owner plans to create three new market-rate rental apartments at the second floor level, and to use several hundred square feet of outdoor space on the plaza in front of 200 Water Street, for a cafe.)
Elected Officials Want Prospective Buyer of Affordable Housing Complex to Share Info
A coalition of elected officials are cautioning the prospective buyer of a Lower Manhattan affordable housing complex not to get any ideas about making the development any less affordable.
Nestled in the shadow of the Manhattan Bridge, Knickerbocker Village is a giant apartment complex in the Two Bridges neighborhood (bounded by Monroe, Market, Cherry, and Catherine Streets), which was built by a public-private partnership in the 1930s. Consisting of 12 buildings with a total of 1,590 apartments, it has been a bastion of affordability for nearly a century. As recently as 2019, a one-bedroom apartment rented there for $810 per month, and a three-bedroom units were priced at $1,250. To read more…
New in Business
ZAZA Restaurant & Diner
Greenwich Street has a long history in Lower Manhattan.
Laid out in 1761 as First Street, the lane was eventually lined with Federalist Mansions, until the rich moved further north. In the 1800s, it was the home of the first modern circus, called the New Amphitheatre. Around the turn of the 20th century, it was the home to Middle Eastern and European immigrants who created a strong community that included boarding houses, shops, a school, and a gymnasium.
All of that ended when the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel was built in 1950 and the lower blocks of Greenwich Street were cleared for the tunnel entrance. The construction of the World Trade Center towers during the 1960s and 70s lopped off blocks in the north, and the disaster of 9/11 wreaked more destruction.
Fast forward to 2022.
With the rebuilding of the World Trade Center site and post-pandemic tourists returning to Lower Manhattan, life is once again returning to Greenwich Street.
The 911 Tribute Museum, Trinity Church’s new community center, George’s Luncheonette, Tajin Restaurant, Dragon Tea, Suspenders, BaoBao Café, the Hide-Away Spa and Lounge along with a few boutique hotels all contribute to a new vibe on the street. And a couple of weeks ago, ZAZA opened.
An American-style diner run by two generations of the Fathelbab family, ZAZA is bright and comfortable, with white marble decor, a friendly staff, and a comprehensive menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The owners, Diana and Adam, and their dad, Bob have been in the restaurant business for more than four decades, involved with establishments in Manhattan, Staten Island, and Brooklyn. Bob was a maître d’hôtel at the Plaza Hotel’s Edwardian Room and Oak Room for more than 20 years.
In addition to ZAZA, the family has another establishment in Coney Island Brooklyn, The Parkview Diner. ZAZA is open 7 days a week from 7am to 10pm serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. Delivery and takeout are available. Save room for one of their homemade mouthwatering desserts!
The Lockheed C-130 Hercules is a four-engine turboprop military transport aircraft designed as a troop and cargo transport aircraft. Its top speed is 367 mph with a range of 2,361 miles. They weight 75,000 lbs and cost between $12 million and $30 million to manufacture.
City Health Data Covering Entire Pandemic Show 150-Plus Local COVID Deaths, Among More Than 20,000 Cases
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, a total of 163 residents of Lower Manhattan have died from the disease, while more than 21,356 residents have been diagnosed according to an analysis of data from the City’s Department of Health. For the eight residential zip codes of Lower Manhattan, these metrics break down as follows: To read more…
Alliance Launches Program to Help Local Small Businesses Connect with Customers Online
The Downtown Alliance, as part of its broader effort to help Lower Manhattan’s business community recover from the COVID-19 crisis, has launched Get Social, a free program teaches local firms how best to use social media to bolster their bottom line. The Alliance will pair ten businesses with social media consultants, each of whom has demonstrated skills and strategic insight on building an audience across a variety of platforms. The program also provides each participating business with a $1,500 grant to spend on advertising and content creation. To read more…
Two Passionate Advocates for the Arts in Lower Manhattan to Be Fêted Tonight
Dr. Lisa Ecklund-Flores
Tonight, Friday (April 8), the highly regarded Church Street School for Music & Art will honor two champions of the Lower Manhattan arts scene—the late Tom Goodkind and Dr. Lisa Ecklund-Flores—with a gala benefit at City Winery (25 11th Avenue, in the Hudson River Park, near 15th Street). To read more…
Floating an Idea
Port Authority Interprets Governor’s Order Littorally
Lower Manhattan residents could soon have a new option for accessing LaGuardia Airport, if planners at the Port Authority approve an option to launch ferry service between the Wall Street pier and the aerodrome in northern Queens.
The Port Authority has been compelled to take a fresh look at ways to access LaGuardia after Governor Kathy Hochul killed plans formulated by her predecessor, former Governor Andrew Cuomo, to build a new AirTrain. That proposal would have connected the airport to both the Long Island Rail Road and the subway’s 7 train—in both cases by moving passengers eastward for those transfers, when the vast majority of users would likely be headed to destinations west of the LaGuardia (such as Manhattan). This scheme was slated to cost several billion dollars.
On Saturdays and Sundays, visit the exhibitions and the ships of the South Street Seaport Museum for free. At 12 Fulton Street, see “South Street and the Rise of New York”” and “Millions: Migrants and Millionaires aboard the Great Liners, 1900-1914,”” and at Pier 16, explore the tall ship Wavertree and lightship Ambrose. Free,
Jeff Deutsch presents In Praise of Good Bookstores, in conversation with Sarah McNally
McNally Jackson 4 Fulton Street
Do we need bookstores in the twenty-first century? If so, what makes a good one? In this beautifully written book, Jeff Deutsch–the director of Chicago’s Seminary Co-op Bookstores, one of the finest bookstores in the world–pays loving tribute to one of our most important and endangered civic institutions. He considers how qualities like space, time, abundance, and community find expression in a good bookstore. Along the way, he also predicts—perhaps audaciously—a future in which the bookstore not only endures, but realizes its highest aspirations.
For the Birds
A Guide to our Feathered Friends in Lower Manhattan
Gail Karlsson is a local writer and photographer who recently began focusing on New York City birds. She has put together a photo book called A Birds’ Guide to The Battery and New York Harbor. Most of the text is written from the birds’ point of view.
In 2017, she began going on morning bird walks in The Battery led by Gabriel Willow, a naturalist working with New York City Audubon. “One day he told me that not very many birders went to The Battery, and it would be good to document what we saw there. I didn’t know much about the different birds, but I did have a new telephoto lens, and Gabriel helped me identify ones I didn’t recognize. I was amazed at how many different types of birds we found there.I decided to put them together in a book – which turned into a much bigger project than I imagined. But a really fun one.”
‘Downtown Birds’ is now on display in the ground-floor window gallery at the former Western Union building (60 Hudson) located on the northwest corner of West Broadway and Thomas now through May 1
The book A Birds’ Guide to The Battery and New York Harbor is available on Amazon.com.
Local Rates of Infection with BA.2 Version of COVID Among Highest in City
In a sharp reversal of previous trends, four Lower Manhattan neighborhoods are ranking among the top five anywhere in the City for rates of infection with the new BA.2 subvariant of the Omicron mutation of COVID-19.
In data released by the City’s Department of Health (DOH) on Sunday (covering the period from March 18 through March 24), southern Tribeca, two areas of the Financial District, and southern Battery Park City all placed among the five communities with the highest percentage positive test results for COVID infection. The four local zip codes with the highest level of positive test results were:
Census Analysis Indicates Downtown Has Become a Lot Younger, Quite a Bit More Crowded, and Slightly More Diverse
The population of Lower Manhattan has grown by almost 20,000 residents in the decade preceding the 2020 Census, according to an analysis co-authored by James Wilson-Schutter, a Community Planning Fellow affiliated with the Fund for the City of New York, who is consulting with Community Board 1 (CB1), and Diana Switaj, CB1’s Director of Planning and Land Use.
Three Downtown Preservation Projects Cited as Exemplars of Landmark Protection
Three of Lower Manhattan’s architectural masterpieces have been singled out for the prestigious Lucy G. Moses Preservation Award, conferred each year by the New York Landmarks Conservancy, a highly regarded non-profit organization (itself based in Lower Manhattan, on Whitehall Street) that seeks to protect New York’s architecturally significant buildings. To read more…
Folk dance group seeks empty space of 400+ sq feet for 2 hours of weekly evening dance practice.
Average attendance is 10 women. This is our hobby; can pay for use of the space.
Call 646 872-0863 or find us on Facebook. Ring O’Bells Morris.
HOUSEKEEPING/ NANNY/ BABYSITTER
Available for PT/FT. Wonderful person, who is a great worker.
Worked in BPC.
Lower Manhattan Greenmarkets
Greenwich Street & Chambers Street
Every Wednesday & Saturday, 8am-3pm
Food Scrap Collection: Saturdays, 8am-1pm
Open Saturdays and Wednesdays year round
Bowling Green Greenmarket
Green Greenmarket at Bowling Green
Broadway & Whitehall St
Open Tuesday and Thursdays, year-round
Market Hours: 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Compost Program: 8 a.m. – 11 a.m.
The Bowling Green Greenmarket brings fresh offerings from local farms to Lower Manhattan’s historic Bowling Green plaza. Twice a week year-round stop by to load up on the season’s freshest fruit, crisp vegetables, beautiful plants, and freshly baked loaves of bread, quiches, and pot pies.
Fulton Street cobblestones between South and Front Sts. across from McNally Jackson Bookstore.
Locally grown produce from Rogowski Farm, Breezy Hill Orchard, and other farmers and small-batch specialty food products, sold directly by their producers. Producers vary from week to week.
SNAP/EBT/P-EBT, Debit/Credit, and Farmers Market Nutrition Program checks accepted at all farmers markets.
Today in History
Winchester Cathedral is amongst the largest of its kind in Northern Europe. The cathedral as it stands today was built from 1079 to 1532 and is dedicated to numerous saints. It has a very long and very wide nave in the Perpendicular Gothic style, an Early English retrochoir, and Norman transepts and tower.
1093 – The new Winchester Cathedral is dedicated by Bishop Walkelin.
Bishop Walkelin began work on a new cathedral church, the current Winchester Cathedral, in 1079. King William I granted Walkelin as much timber for the building and its scaffolding from the Forest of Hempage Wood (on the Old Alresford Road in Hampshire) as his carpenters could take in four days and nights. However, in the words of the Winchester Annalist. “the Bishop collected an innumerable troop of carpenters and within the assigned time cut down the whole wood and carried it off to Winchester. [Soon afterwards the King], passing by Hempage, was struck with amazement and cried out, “Am I bewitched or have I taken leave of my senses? Had I not once a most delectable wood upon this spot?” But when he understood what had happened, he was violently enraged. Then the Bishop Walkelin put on a shabby vestment and made his way to the King’s feet, humbly begging to resign the episcopate and merely requesting that he might retain his royal friendship and chaplaincy. The King was thus appeased, only observing, “I was as much too liberal in my grant as you were too greedy in availing yourself of it.”
1766 – First fire escape patented, wicker basket on a pulley and chain
1789 – House of Representatives first meeting
1820 – The Venus de Milo is discovered on the Aegean island of Melos.
1838 – Maiden transAtlantic voyage of the wooden-hulled paddle-wheel steamship SS Great Western, the first steamship purpose-built for crossing the Atlantic. She left Bristol, England on April 8 and arrived in NYC on April 22.
1879 – Milk was sold in glass bottles for first time
1939 – King Zog I of Albania, flees
1943 – President Franklin Roosevelt, in an attempt to check inflation, freezes wages and prices, prohibits workers from changing jobs unless the war
effort would be aided thereby, and bars rate increases to common carriers and public utilities.
1946 – League of Nations assembles for last time
1952 – President Harry Truman seizes steel mills to avert a strike
1985 – India files suit against Union Carbide over Bhopal disaster
2008 – The construction of the world’s first building to integrate wind turbines completes, in Bahrain.
2012 – Gunter Grass labelled persona non gratta by Israeli internal affairs minister Eli Yishai
David Rittenhouse (1732-1796) was eighteenth-century Pennsylvania’s most accomplished clock- and instrument-maker. An avid astronomer, he built complicated astronomical clocks and orreries, or planetary models, that not only kept time but predicted celestial events. These major works, coupled with his notable and widely publicized observations of Venus passing between Earth and the Sun in 1769, established him as a scientific leader and secured him an eminent place in the history of American science. Painting by Charles Willson Peale.
1460 – Ponce de Leon, Spain, searched for fountain of youth, found Florida
1732 – David Rittenhouse, astronomer, inventor, and mathematician (d. 1796)
1892 – Mary Pickford, [Gladys Smith], actress (Poor Little Rich Girl)
1929 – Jacques Brel, Belgium, singer/actor
1937 – Seymour Hersh, award winning investigative reporter (NY Times)
1948 – Robert Alan Litchfield, Mass, bank robber (FBI most wanted in the 1980s)
1963 – Julian Lennon, Liverpool UK, singer and son of John
1779 – US Defector General Benedict Arnold (38) weds Peggy Shippen (18) at Shippen’s townhouse in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
217 – Caracalla, [Marcus Antoniius], Roman emperor (198-217), murdered at 29
1947 – Henry Ford, US industrialist (Ford cars), dies at 83
1973 – Pablo Picasso, Spanish/French painter (Guernica), dies at 91
1981 – Omar Bradley, last US 5-star general, (Normandy) dies in NY at 88
2007 – Sol LeWitt, American artist (b. 1928)
2013 – Margaret Thatcher, British Prime Minister (1979 – 1990) dies aged 87