Congregation began from simple beginnings on Manhattan’s Lower East Side when our parent congregations, Shaar Hashomayim and Ahawath Chesed, were founded in 1839 and 1846 respectively by German-speaking immigrants. By 1870, the membership of Ahawath Chesed prospered, grew and moved uptown to Lexington Avenue at 55th Street.
With amazing courage and vision, the 140 families of Ahawath Chesed commissioned Henry Fernbach, New York’s first prominent Jewish architect, to design its synagogue, which seated more than 1,400 individuals. At its dedication in 1872, Rabbi Adolph Heubsch described the building as “a house of worship in evidence of the high degree of development only possible under a condition of freedom.”
In 1898 Shaar Hashomayim merged with Ahawath Chesed and became known as Central Synagogue in 1917. Though tempted to continue its move northward, in 1913 the Board of Trustees decided to stay on our present site.
Central Synagogue, designated a New York City Landmark in 1966 and a National Historic Landmark in 1975, is the oldest synagogue in continuous use in New York City and one of the leading Reform congregations in the country.more » « less