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236 Kane Street / Brooklyn, NY 11231 / 718 875-1550

Two synagogues in Brooklyn receive Jewish Heritage Fund grants

By Francesca Norsen Tate, Brooklyn Eagle. Originally published September 22, 2016.

Two Jewish Heritage Fund grants totaling $75,000 were awarded to historic synagogues in Brooklyn — a $50,000 grant to Congregation Baith Israel Anshei Emis for the restoration of its masonry facades and structural repairs to its towers, and a $25,000 grant to Congregation Ahavas Israel for masonry façade restoration and roof replacement.

“These buildings are critical to celebrating and understanding the history of American Judaism and document the many contributions of Jewish New Yorkers to the city’s culture and history,” said Peg Breen, president of the New York Landmarks Conservancy.

Congregation Baith Israel Anshei Emes, familiarly known as the Kane Street Synagogue, was founded in 1856 and is known as the “Mother Synagogue.” In 1905, it purchased the former Middle Dutch Reformed Church and adjacent school building. It is believed that Samuel Warner (architect of the Marble Collegiate Church on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan) designed both buildings. The sanctuary and school are examples of Early Romanesque Revival architecture. The house of worship was completed in 1856 and the school was completed one year earlier in 1855.

In 2003, stucco was removed from the blue marble school facade and a new community building was built behind the renovated facade.

In addition to worship, the congregation oversees an after-school religious program, adult education classes and a children’s nursery school and day care center.  Programming open to the whole community includes lectures, which draw about 60 to 80 people, concerts with audiences of 100 to 300 people and a popular film series. The congregation volunteers at the Brooklyn Heights Synagogue homeless shelter and at the Cobble Hill nursing home and sponsors monthly donation drives for local charities. These activities reach approximately 1,000 community members per year.

Congregation Ahavas Israel in Greenpoint is a two-story, buff-brick vernacular style “tenement” synagogue that was constructed in 1904 by builder W.G. Miller. The building now known as “the annex” was formerly the Temple Beth El of Greenpoint and was built in 1871. This synagogue is significant as home to the last active Jewish congregation in Greenpoint, a neighborhood that once had five synagogues.

In addition to worship, the synagogue hosts quarterly “swaps” at which household items are exchanged among community members. Along with the Greenpoint Reform Church and the Greenpoint Islamic Center, Ahavas Israel formed GIFT (Greenpoint Interfaith Food Team), which grows food in a community garden, and sponsors a soup kitchen. There is a support group meeting weekly at the church.  The shul hosts monthly Sabbath meals, holiday dinners, periodic concerts, classes and other performances.  Combined, these activities serve 2,000 people per year.

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