Photo of the Week
FROM THE SCHS LIBRARY ARCHIVES
“How shall we know it is us without our past?”
– John Steinbeck
Temple Mishcan Israel, Sag Harbor, c. 1900
by Wendy Polhemus-Annibell, Head Librarian
Temple Mishcan Israel, Sag Harbor, c. 1900: First Synagogue on Eastern Long Island.
Image courtesy Eileen Moskowitz, Temple Adas Israel.
As eastern Long Island’s oldest synagogue, Temple Adas Israel was founded as Congregation Mishkan Israel in 1893. The temple purchased land in 1896, and the building was completed in circa 1900. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle attributed the creation of the new congregation to the establishment of Fahy’s watchcase factory, which had drawn a large number of Russian and Polish-Jewish workers to Sag Harbor. Formal dedication ceremonies were held October 28, 1900.
The exterior of the temple was painted white; it had a peaked roof and two plain white pillars that stood on either side of the entrance door. Inside, in European tradition, there were two altars: one in the center of the synagogue where the rabbi and cantor read the Torah scroll, and the other at the East wall facing Jerusalem, containing the Ark, Eternal Light, and Tablets of the Commandments. Seating capacity was 100. Since the temple was originally Orthodox––and women were not permitted to worship with men––a Ladies Gallery, with its own exterior entrance, was built with additional seating for 60. The basement contained a mikvah, a baptismal font used by Orthodox Jewish women for purposes of ritual cleanliness, as well as in the ceremony of conversion of a Gentile to Judaism. There was also an apartment for a janitor, which was later used by resident and itinerant rabbis.
Legend has it that Sag Harbor’s Temple Mishcan Israel was given its first Torah by Theodore Roosevelt. According to the story, Roosevelt acquired the Torah in 1898 when he returned to the United States with twelve hundred Rough Riders he had led in the charge up San Juan Hill during the Spanish American War. When three of his men contracted yellow fever, Roosevelt returned to American shores via Montauk. The brigade was quarantined for a month to ensure no one else caught the contagious disease. During their stay in Montauk the men held worship services, including Shabbat services for the Jewish soldiers. A Torah was procured for this purpose. When the brigade left, after the quarantine period, Roosevelt donated the Torah to the nearest synagogue: Temple Mishcan Israel in Sag Harbor.
INFO. SOURCE: Beth Moskowitz, “Temple Adas Israel, Sag Harbor, NY: Our History.”
Enjoy an Opening Reception / Meet the Curator event for SEEKING SANCTUARY: 125 Years of Synagogues on Long Island on Thursday, August 12, 6:00 pm. This event is free to members; $5 / non-members. Includes light refreshments.
BOOK & BOTTLE Is Back! SEEKING SANCTUARY: 125 Years of Synagogues on Long Island, with Brad Kolodny, on Thursday, August 26, 2021 – 6:00 PM
$5 / RSVP & Prepayment Required: 631-727-2881 x100 Includes author lecture, light refreshments, and book sale & signing. Books will be available for purchase at the special discounted price of $40 each.
Come hear the story of how Judaism evolved on Long Island over the past 125 years—from the humble beginnings of the first synagogue built in 1896, to the massive growth following World War II, to today. Author and exhibit curator Brad Kolodny will discuss his four-year project photographing and documenting every synagogue that has ever existed in Nassau and Suffolk counties. In this lecture we will learn about the historic significance, architectural design features, and other unique characteristics of a sampling of synagogues.