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Friday, January 1, 2021

Jews of Troy, 1850-1950

by Harvey Strum, Sage Colleges
Copyright ©2020 All rights reserved by the author


Creating a Community

“Mechanic Benjamin Fivel, a member of Company B, 105th Infantry, who was severely wounded during the Hindenburg line drive, has received his honorable discharge and returned to his home in Troy.”(1) From World War I, this story is one of the forgotten accounts of Jewish immigrants living in small towns and midsize upstate New York cities, especially in the Hudson Valley. Looking at the experiences of ethnic and religious minorities who settled in upstate New York can provide us with a fuller understanding of the immigrant experience and the problems and opportunities available to ethnic and religious minorities populating in upstate communities. How did these immigrants identify with America, and how did they adapt and change to their new environment? How did immigrants, especially the Jews of Troy, express their desire to maintain or reject the values and experiences of Jews in Europe? To what degree did they create institutions that preserved their ethnic and religious identity as distinct from the Anglo-American Protestant majority, and to what degree did they shed their customs, spiritual practices, and identity to fit in as “real Americans?” Did Jewish immigrants and their American-born descendants feel obligated to help Jews abroad? To what degree did Troy's Jews identify with Zionism as either the Jewish people's nationalist movement or as a refuge from persecution for the Jews of Russia, Romania, Poland, and Germany?

Ever since the first Jews arrived in New Amsterdam in 1654, Jews grappled with the same questions---how to maintain Jewish identity in an overwhelmingly Christian society and cling to separate ethnic, religious, cultural, and social values to navigate between their Jewish identity and Americanization. The repeated problems of relatives and co-religionists in Europe raised other questions---was the solution for the European hostility to Jews mass migration to America or the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine? In looking at these questions, historians have focused on Jewish immigrants' experiences in New York City or in Chicago, Boston, and Philadelphia. Local Jewish historians partially filled the gap and researched the experiences of Jews in midsize cities in the Hudson Valley and upstate New York. (2)
Today most of the Jewish residents in upstate New York live in the immediate suburban counties of Westchester (129,000), Rockland (93,000), and Orange (34,000). In upstate New York, the Jewish population is 22,500 in Rochester, 18,500 in Buffalo, and nine thousand in Syracuse. Albany is the home of the largest Jewish community in the mid and upper Hudson Valley, 12,000. In the 19th Century, Jewish immigrants created a few scattered Jewish communities in the Hudson Valley from Yonkers to Glens Falls. Since the 1960s, only a few new Jewish congregations have been founded in the Hudson Valley, above the suburbs, most notably in Albany, New Paltz, Chatham, and Rhinebeck. Jews remain a small minority in most of the Hudson Valley and upstate New York. Jewish immigrants appeared as an exotic religious minority in the 19th Century. In 2019, few Jews live north of the New York City suburbs.

The history of the Jews of Troy provides an understanding of establishing a Hudson Valley Jewish community. In small towns and medium-sized cities, Jews, as non-Christians, comprise a small religious and ethnic minority that always must negotiate their interactions with a larger gentile population, either ignore their existence or views them as an odd “other.”

Unfortunately, not all Jewish communities established in the Hudson Valley still exist. At least four Jewish communities near Troy have vanished. In the 1870s, a few Jewish immigrants migrated to the prosperous agricultural market center of Hoosick Falls in northern Rensselaer County. By the early 1880s, they established a synagogue that Gentiles dubbed the “Hebrew synagogue.” Although small in numbers, Jews in Hoosick Falls actively participated in efforts to aid Jews abroad. In November 1919, for example, the Jewish residents organized a mass meeting. Non-Jews, including the Village President Danforth Geer, attended the meeting and supported the Jewish Relief Fund's fund-raising efforts to assist Jews in Europe and Palestine. An organized Jewish community lasted for fifty years until the early 1930s, The Great Depression led to the collapse of the economy, and Jews moved out of the town. A few Jews remained in Hoosick Falls, but they could no longer support a synagogue and hire a rabbi even on a part-time basis. In the 1930s, a few Jewish refugees from Germany settled in Hoosick Falls, but their descendants left the town, and in 2019 only one Jewish resident lives in Hoosick Falls. (3)

Across the Hudson River from Troy, the first Jewish immigrants settled in “Spindle City,” the name for Cohoes, in northern Albany County, a thriving textile and industrial city, in the 1850s.

As part of the larger migration of Jews to the United States, the Jewish population of Cohoes grew in the 1870s and increased into the early 20th Century. For decades the Orthodox Jewish residents crossed the river to attend services in the synagogues in Troy. By the 1890s, 250 Jews lived in Cohoes, 1% of the city’s population, but enough to establish their own Orthodox synagogue, Congregation Beth Jacob, on 25 August 1896. Like the Jews in Hoosick Falls, the Jews of Cohoes actively aided their co-religionists abroad. In October 1919, for example, the Jewish community collected $3,100 for the Jewish Relief Fund, and in September 1929 contributed $250 to a fund to aid victims of Arab pogroms in Palestine. A declining economy in Cohoes and a dwindling Orthodox Jewish population forced Beth Jacob's closure and the merger with Orthodox Beth Tephilah synagogue in Troy in January 1968.

Changing business environments, the decline of Jewish owned businesses, fewer immigrants, smaller families, declining commitment to Orthodox Judaism, and second and third-generation Jews leaving for better prospects in larger urban areas led to the collapse and eventual extinction of Jewish life in small towns and cities across the United States. (4)

Starting in the 1890s, several Jewish families settled as farmers in southern Rensselaer County. In 1905, the Jewish Agricultural Society enlisted Jewish immigrants on the Lower East Side of New York City to start new lives as farmers in rural southern Rensselaer County. Jews migrated to Schodack, East Schodack, Nassau, and East Nassau. In a report from the Jewish Agricultural in 1908, Society ranked Rensselaer County as having the second-largest concentration of Jewish farmers in the state after Sullivan and Ulster counties. In 1909, there were at least sixty-five Jewish farms in the county. By the 1920s, 200 Jewish families became farmers---dairy, poultry, and vegetables. Nassau’s Jews supported two kosher butchers and a kosher bakery where Max Panitch remembered you could buy “lovely rye bread.” Jewish farm families founded three synagogues in East Schodack, East Nassau, and Nassau in 1925, 1927, and 1913.

Jewish residents avoided publicizing the creation of synagogues, because in the 1920s a chapter of the Ku Klux Klan, operated out of Chatham, in northern Columbia County, and local fraternal organizations, including the Odd Fellows and Masons, would not admit Jews. To survive on the rocky soil of southern Rensselaer County, some of the farmers innovated by taking in boarders in summer from Albany and New York City, turning the area into “The Little Catskills.” For example, a visitor could spend a week at the boarding house that became a kosher summer resort, Krouners Hotel, a smaller version of the famous Catskills Grossinger’s Hotel. (5)

However, in the 1950s, Jewish farming declined in New York and across the country. Mechanization, growth of agribusiness, increased competition from the Middle West and South due to more efficient transportation methods, and abandonment of farming by the original Jewish settlers' descendants led to a sharp drop in Jewish farmers. In the 1950s and 1960s, the federal government removed price supports for eggs and made few efforts to keep small farmers on the land. The synagogues in East Nassau and East Schodack closed, and the Nassau synagogue came close to shutting its doors in the 1970s. As Nassau became a partially suburban community, Jewish families from New York City and Albany kept the lights on. As one newcomer to Nassau noted, “the Nassau shul reminds her of her little shul in Brooklyn.” Some of the Jewish farmers' descendants stayed in the area, and some of the Jewish residents of Albany and Troy preferred a smaller synagogue with lower membership fees.

In 2019, only one-third-generation the Jewish farmers remain in Rensselaer County. Elsewhere in the Hudson Valley, Jewish farming's decline abandoned synagogues in towns, such as Accord and Granite. Jewish farming in the Hudson Valley is a historical memory, as are the small summer resorts of Rensselaer County and the Catskills' major Jewish resorts. (6)

Jewish immigrants who settled upstate New York left Europe in two separate migrations the first migration, called the German period in American Jewish history, came in the period of 1815 to 1870, half from Germany and a half from the Alsace region of France; the Austrian, Czech, Galician, and Hungarian regions of the Austrian Empire; and a few from Lithuania and Poland in the Russian Empire. After the end of the Napoleonic Wars, several German states, Bavaria, Württemberg, Baden, reimpose restrictions on a residence, marriage, occupations, and economic activities for Jews. Related disabilities and economic pressures forced Jews to leave other parts of central Europe. Primarily young and relatively poor Jews migrated to the United States. After entering New York City, Jewish immigrants did not always stay and migrated north and west, establishing scattered Jewish communities from Yonkers to Buffalo in the 1820s to the 1860s. Jewish immigrants settling in Troy and Cohoes in the 1840s and 1850s formed part of this “German” migration. About 250,000 to 300,000 Jews came to the United States from 1815-1880. Their numbers paled compared to the millions of Protestants and Catholics from Germany who arrived simultaneously as the flood of Irish Catholics fleeing famine and poverty in the Green Isle. Jews made up about 10% of the German migration and zero percent of the Irish immigrant wave.

From 1880 to 1924, one-third of the Jews in the Russian Empire, two million people immigrated to the United States. Another 500,000 Jews, 22 percent of the Jewish population of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, emigrated from Europe. At least 150,000 Jews from Romania fled to America. Driven out of the Russian Empire by the pogroms of 1869, the pogroms of 1881-82, May Laws of 1882, the expulsions of 1891, deteriorating economic opportunities, conscription, and the pogroms of 1903-1905, Jews fled Russia and the Tsar.

Arriving on the Lower East Side of New York City, Jewish immigrants raised their glasses of tea to God bless the Tsar and keep him far away from me. Jews comprised five percent of the Russian population but made up fifty percent of the Russian Empire's emigrants.

Immigrant Jews landed in America hoping for religious tolerance, economic opportunity, and to escape Russian captivity. Expanding Jewish population, local persecutions, starvation, and declining economic conditions forced the flight of Jews from Polish-speaking Galicia in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Draconian laws on Jewish economic activities, impoverishment of the Jewish population, and violent attacks in the 1880s started Jewish migration from Romania.

Pogroms in Jassy, Arad, and Bucharest in 1899 and in 50 Moldavian towns in 1907 spurred 150,000 Jews to flee en masse to the United States. In reaction to these events, some Russian and Romanian Jews moved eastward to Palestine as Zionist settlers. However, most Jews who left Eastern Europe preferred the promised land of New York City or Chicago. Jewish immigrants from the Russian and Austro-Hungarian empires increased the Jewish communities in upstate cities, including Troy, Cohoes, and Albany settled as farmers in southern Rensselaer County and looking for economic opportunities in smaller communities, like Glens Falls and Hoosick Falls. (7) Jews came to stay, for one quarter to one-third of all immigrants returned to their home countries, but only three to seven percent of Jewish immigrants left the United States.

“Our citizens have not been a little puzzled to find a large number of stores closed the past few days, the occasion of…the observance of the Jewish New Year, by those occupying the stores.” (8). This comment in a Troy newspaper represented one of the first recognitions that a new and totally alien religious minority with different holidays and religious traditions had arrived in Troy. Barnet Levy, a tailor, moved to Troy in 1837 and became its first Jewish resident. Emanuel Marks, a merchant, seeing economic opportunities in the growing Collar City (Troy), arrived in 1842. By 1851, enough Jews settled in Troy to organize a religious congregation. Led by Emanuel Gratz, the community met in two “rented rooms, one for men, one for women” in the Wotkyn’s Block on Congress Street. (9) In 1853, the congregation adopted the name Anshe Chesed (People of Kindness). One of the congregants served as rabbi and shochet. A year later, the community established a burial society, known as a Chevra Kadisha, to prepare burial bodies according to the customs of Orthodox Judaism. Troy's Gentile population's puzzlement articulated in the brief story in one of the local newspapers in 1859 began with creating a Jewish congregation and its attempt to live by Judaism's values and religious traditions.

Jewish religious leader and publisher of Occident, Isaac Leeser, reported in October 1851 “in Hudson, there are several Jewish families. The same is the case in Troy, Schenectady, Watertown, Oswego, Binghamton, and probably other places in the state of New York.” (10) Jews from the southern German kingdoms and central Europe arrived from 1815 to 1880, establishing Jewish communities, as indicated by Leeser. For example, several Jews got off a canal boat in 1839 and, joining other Jews who arrived earlier, started the Temple Society of Concord in Syracuse in December 1839. Twelve Jewish men who came to Rochester in the 1840s held their first New Year service on 7 October 1848 and established Berith Kodesh the next day. German Jews who immigrated to Albany organized Beth El in 1838.

In 1845, a small group of Jewish immigrants in Poughkeepsie met for religious services, and on 8 March 1851 incorporated as Congregation Children of Israel. By 1854, seven Jewish families residing in Newburgh rented space for Temple Beth Jacob. Jewish peddlers and merchants arrived in Kingston in the 1850s, and in 1861 bought a Baptist Church to create Congregation Emanuel. These Jewish communities in the Hudson Valley and upstate New York paralleled the arrival of Jews in Troy, and all belonged to the migration of Jews from the German states and central Europe. The arrival of Jewish immigrants to the United States established the Jews as a small but widely scattered religious minority in America from 1815 to 1880. As a result of this immigration, Jews created “one thousand significant Jewish settlements in at least thirty-two of the thirty-eight states, four territories, and Washington, D.C.”11 In 1820, about three thousand Jews lived in America, and in 1880 the Jewish population increased to about 250,000.

Jewish immigrants settling in New York adapted their occupational/work experience in Europe to the new environment. In Germany, Jews survived as petty traders. From eighty to ninety percent of Jewish families engaged in petty trade, it rose to ninety-six percent in Bavaria. Most Jewish men lived by peddling and/or running small shops. According to historian Hasia Diner “most Jews barely eked out a living wage from their shops or peddling routes,” and most Jews remained poor. 12 Poor Jewish men, followed by poor Jewish women, became the wretched refuse, emigrating from Germany and middle Europe from 1815 to 1880. Similarly, most Jews who lived in the Russian Empire, Austro-Hungarian Empire, or Romania, who immigrated to the United States from 1880 to 1924” were the proste yidn---simple and poor.”(13)

All spoke Yiddish, the lingua franca of the Jewish people from Alsace to Russia. Many could understand and read Hebrew, the Old Testament language, but few knew English upon arriving in America, whether in 1820 or 1890. The Jews who settled in Troy and upstate New York shared these experiences and backgrounds. Almost all were proste yidn. All spoke Yiddish, and many who arrived from 1815-1880 spoke German, and some spoke Polish or Hungarian.

Immigrants who reached Troy and upstate New York after 1880 usually also spoke Polish. Some knew German, but many could converse in Lithuanian, Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian, or Romanian, depending on the languages of their Gentile neighbors they traded with.

Most Jews initially followed the trading practices brought from Europe. For example, one-quarter of the members of two synagogues in Albany, Beth El and Anshe Emeth (Orthodox and Reform, respectively), worked as peddlers, and two-thirds of Syracuse's Jews eked out a living as peddlers in the 1850s. Descriptions of early Jewish residents, whether in Poughkeepsie, Kingston, Newburgh, or Rochester, emphasized that Jews worked as peddlers, tailors, or ran small shops. Samuel Reznick, who wrote a history of Troy congregation Berith Sholom noted that the first congregation members “were modest people, tailors, peddlers, and merchants.”(14) Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise recorded the modest means of his Albany congregation members in the 1840s and early 50s that applied to Jewish immigrants to Troy, Cohoes, Newburgh, and other upstate Jewish communities. “Few families in Albany had parlors furnished with carpets…The majority lived in two or three rooms.”(15) Women of the congregation lacked money for good or fashionable clothes, and the men drank three-cent beers and smoked three-cent cigars. Appealing to the general public for financial assistance to build a new synagogue, Troy’s Congregation Berith Sholom described its membership in March 1870 as “few in numbers and limited in pecuniary means.”16 In the 1880s, the two hundred Jewish families living in Troy resided “in tenements and private homes in the lowlands near the fetid Hudson River, not far from the belching ironworks and foundries.”(17)

A partial study of the Troy Jewish community completed by Allan Cohen and Gabe Izraelevitz analyzed occupational categories in 1910 revealed that most Jews earned a living as peddlers, tailors, or small merchants.18 Whether they came to Albany or Troy in 1850, as part of the “German” migration, or in 1910, as part of the East European mass migration, Jews were the huddled masses yearning to be free, the refuse of humanity, the proste yidn. While other ethnic groups engaged in peddling, it became the premier trade of the Jews in America. For many, they served as a bridge occupation to owning a small store or rising into the lower middle class.

The article in the Troy newspaper in 1859 that some of the Jewish peddlers had made the transition to running small shops announced the presence of Jews because they closed for Rosh Hashanah. One of the Troy newspapers printed a column "Rosh Hashanah for Citizens” describing “why certain shops were mysteriously closed in the middle of the week.” (19) The Christian majority noticed when Jewish shopkeepers from Yonkers to Buffalo closed on unusual days, coinciding with Jewish holidays, unknown to non-Jews, and a source of amused bewilderment at the strange customs and behavior of this new religious minority.

Almost as soon as Jews organized a congregation in Troy divisions, they split the community into two warring factions creating a second congregation, Bikur Cholim. Over a decade earlier, the first Jewish congregation in Albany, Beth El, split over whether to follow a German Jewish (minhag Ashkenaz) or Polish Jewish ritual (minhag Polin), reflecting that many Jewish settlers in Albany emigrated from the Polish-speaking Poznan region of Prussia.

The dissenters organized Beth El Jacob in 1841. Whether this caused the split in Troy in 1855 remains a mystery? Differences in ritual or regions in Europe Jewish immigrants emigrated from produced most of the splits in 19th Century Jewish communities. Jews from the same region in Europe felt more comfortable praying with people with similar experiences and backgrounds, preferring to join synagogues with landsmen rather than Jews from other parts of Europe, “making the term Jewish unity an oxymoron.”(20) In many Jewish communities across New York, these splits developed, for example, in Utica and Syracuse in the 1850s. Both Troy congregations managed to acquire burial grounds on Mount Ida and took responsibility for the sick. Jewish divisions in Troy produced conflict over ownership of the single Sefer Torah, the Jewish Scriptures that escalated into the Hebrew Bible Case in the local Troy court in 1859. Abram Jacobs, who served as rabbi for Anshe Chesed, testified as did at least two congregation members, Isaac Cohen and Louis Gross, Newspapers in Troy, picked up on this unusual dispute and covered it the chagrin of the tiny Jewish community. To the dismay of the Troy Jewish community, their divisions over ownership of the Torah became public knowledge in court and in the press.

When Aaron Ksensky arrived in Troy in 1857, he attempted to heal the breach in the community’s unity. Still, as the Hebrew Bible Case suggests, it took several years before his negotiations succeeded. During Rosh Hashanah 1864, the press noted “the places of business of the Hebrews if this city were closed last evening” as the Jewish community observed the holiday in the buildings used as separate synagogues by the two congregations. (21) The press repeatedly stressed the odd holidays of Jews and businesses' strange closings to observe the holidays.

To the Hudson Valley Christians in the middle of the 19th Century, the Jewish immigrants were an inoffensive “other.” The thirty Jewish families in Troy in 1864 appeared to the press as“’ quiet, decent, and a respectable and orderly class of citizens, always pay their bills promptly, and while sharp in trade, they are nevertheless among our most inoffensive…inhabitants.’” (22) Not surprisingly, the Troy Whig description combined praise and traditional stereotypes about Jews being sharp in trade. Jews appeared inoffensive but not totally trustworthy neighbors.

Stereotypes about Jews served as the rationale for the emergence of social and economic discrimination against Jews starting in the 1860s. Escalating in the 1870s with the Grand Hotel's famous incident in 1877 in nearby Saratoga Springs--- hotels, restaurants, resorts, clubs, and businesses barred or limited Jewish customers and employees until the 1960s. While the press described Jews as inoffensive immigrants, it did not prevent discrimination against Jews because Christian Americans viewed Jews as the “other.” (23) Even children felt the disapproval of their Christian schoolmates. In the 1870s and 1880s, a jingle popular in Troy and sung by school children across the United States went this way:

I had a piece of pork. I put it on a fork.
And gave it to the curly-headed Jew.
Pork, Pork, Pork, Jew, Jew, Jew. 

Morris “Marty” Silverman, son of a tailor, grew up in Troy during World War I. Priests delivered sermons denouncing Jews as Christ-killers on Sundays. “and on Monday mornings, we Jewish public-school students were sometimes beaten up.” (24) Christian students at Troy High School barred Jews from membership in fraternities and sororities. Jews remained the other. Jews also faced occasional violence. In the late 19th Century, Troy was not “the spiritual home of National Brotherhood Week.” (25) Like peddler Hyman Bernstein, Jewish immigrants became the targets of “ugly incidents that victimized” Jews on Troy's streets. A “group of street urchins” attacked him with stones “and presumably anti-Semitic epithets” in November 1883, and a French-Canadian saloonkeeper stole his peddler’s pack. Four years later, during the Fourth of July celebrations, Hyman and his son Sam “were in the center of a brawl on River Street that appeared to break down on religious lines---Jews versus Catholics.”26 Jews found relations with their Catholic neighbors a confusing mix because individual Catholics might attack them while other Irish, Polish, Ukrainian or Italian Catholics in adjoining neighborhoods showed no animus to Jews. Gentile neighbors developed friendly relations with Jews who lived in South Troy, where there were few Jewish families since most Jews lived in the Jewish neighborhood near downtown. Catholic leaders, both religious and secular, worked with Jewish leaders and showed sensitivity to the Jewish community's concerns. Troy’s Irish mayors in the late 19th like mayor Dennis J. Whelan, Century, seeking the votes of Jewish immigrants “religiously attended synagogue dedications.” (27) Troy's political leaders kept a lid on public expressions of anti-Semitism because they wanted Jews to become political supporters and assimilate them into the political process. Irish American political leaders embraced the Jewish community.

However, Protestant elites and many working-class Catholics and Protestants disliked Jews. As historian Hasia Diner concluded: “for them, Jews served as a collective symbol of alienness, of being different from everyone else, and at odds with the ideals of Christian America.” (28)

Meanwhile, Jewish immigrants to Troy faced problems of division, unity, and growth. On 5 June 1864, members, Bikur Cholim, heightened the Jewish community's divisions by dedicating a new synagogue on the third floor of the Vail’s building, on the corner of Congress and River streets, in the Jewish neighborhood. By hiring a rabbi, Louis Nested, the congregation reinforced their independence from congregation Anshe Chesed.

Two rabbis consecrated the new synagogue, Rabbi E. Jacobs of Syracuse delivered a sermon in English, and Rabbi Louis Gothold of Albany spoke in German. Ceremonies around placing the Torah Scrolls in the ark impressed the local press, who marveled at the peculiar features of Jewish houses of worship.29

In theory, the new synagogue and its congregation lasted only two years because Aaron Ksensky managed to persuade the two congregations to meet and merge into Berith Sholom (Covenant of Peace), incorporated on 26 March 1866. The signers of the incorporation papers and trustees of the new congregation included members from both previous Jewish groups. Even the newspapers commented on the Jewish community's divisions and welcomed the reconciliation of the two congregations. According to the Daily Whig, the “internal division in the Jewish community “’ wasted their energies and retarded their usefulness.’” (30) Combining membership and additional Jewish immigration to Troy led to a need to construct Troy's first synagogue. Due to the lack of financial resources, the Building Committee issued a public appeal for contributions in 1869 and 1870, and Mayor Uri Gilbert donated $50 to the building fund.31 His contribution documented that although many working-class Catholics, primarily Irish and French-Canadian, and Protestants did not like or hated Jews, the political leaders welcomed the Jewish immigrants and endorsed their efforts to create religious and social institutions. Mayor Gilbert, a devout Episcopalian and a Republican supported the synagogue's construction, suggesting that Troy’s political leaders, Democrats and Republicans, Catholics, and Protestants, publicly welcomed Jews, even if many of their constituents did not.

On 12 June 1870, the Building Committee, in a much-publicized occasion, set the cornerstone for the new synagogue on Third and Division streets. Local dignitaries, including Mayor Gilbert and the Albany Jewish community leaders, attended the cornerstone's laying. The ceremony “attracted a large crowd of spectators and was decidedly interesting as well as an impressive event.” Another Troy paper congratulated “our Hebrew citizens” on “erecting their own house of worship.” (32) Berith Sholom drafted a new Constitution and established a new Chevra Kadisha Society to deal with the ill and bury the dead.33 The dedication of the new synagogue on 22 September 1870 also turned into a well-publicized affair. All Jewish owned businesses closed to celebrate the new synagogue, and prominent non-Jews attended the dedication. Congregation Berith Sholom embraced Reform Judaism, like introducing mixed seating of men and women, although it did not formally affiliate with the Reform movement until 1890. Rabbi Max Schlesinger of Reform Anshe Emeth in Albany delivered the major address at the dedication affirming the connection to Reform Judaism. Perceptive non-Jews like local historian Nathaniel Sylvester writing in 1880, described Berith Sholom as representative of the progressive wing of Judaism, “leaning towards a reform in their mode of worship.” (34) Berith Sholom today has the oldest continuous use synagogue building in upstate New York.

Reform innovations alienated part of the congregation, and even before the dedication, they withdrew from Berith Sholom. On 4 August 1870, “a number of our leading Hebrews met and resolved they would organize a society which would be strictly orthodox.”35 They elected a committee of fifteen to purchase land for a new Orthodox synagogue. As the Troy Press observed, the dissenters comprised “many leading citizens and representatives of their class in the city.” (36) The congregation adopted Beth Israel Bikur Cholem and incorporated it on 24 October 1870 to confirm their status as a separate synagogue. Twenty years earlier, a Reform-minded group led by Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise, the founder of Reform Judaism, split from Orthodox Beth El in Albany to form Anshe Emeth. Troy's split represented American Judaism's evolution into distinct branches with different interpretations of Jewish law, customs, and traditions. To Orthodox Jews, mixed seating and family pews verged on sacrilege, and they found other innovations, like a choir, music in services, dropping of certain prayers, greater use of English and less Hebrew in services, and declining commitment to observing the Sabbath and keeping kosher as disconcerting and unacceptable.

Orthodox Judaism in Troy received a boost in the early 1870s with Polish and Russian Jews' immigration. The new immigrants did not want to join Beth Israel Bikur Cholem and wanted to create a new Orthodox congregation. This paralleled developments in other Jewish communities, for example, Albany and Schenectady, because each group of immigrants with different ethnicities and or allegiances to different religious practices wanted to establish a synagogue that reminded them of their home congregations. Immigrants in Troy identified as German, Hungarian, Polish, or Russian Jews. German Jews dominated Berith Sholom. Polish and Russian Jews preferred Beth Israel. Hungarians organized a new congregation. Recently arrived immigrants formed Congregation Sharah Tephilah in 1873 and incorporated on 15 November 1875. Three hundred Jewish congregations and Jewish societies, like the Free Sons of Israel, attended the cornerstone ceremony for Sharah Tephilah on 9 October 1887. Rabbis from Albany and New York City participated in the ceremonies. Several city officials, including the school superintendent, police commissioner, several aldermen, and the comptroller, came to show their support for the Jewish community. Mayor Whelan laid the cornerstone at the corner of Division and River streets. Like mayor Whelan, Irish Catholic politicians and Protestant political leaders confirmed that Jews were recognized members of the Troy community. (37)

New Polish and Russian Jewish immigrants organized the fourth congregation, also Orthodox, Chai Adam, in 1886. Seventeen Jews met on 6 July 1886 to organize a congregation. Chai Adam established its own Chevra Kadisha on 22 June 1887, and on 30 January 1897, purchased a house on River Street for a synagogue. In the 1890s, members of the Jewish community could walk to any of the four synagogues located in the Jewish neighborhood's heart along River, Division, and 5th streets. Synagogues for the immigrant generation served as the center of Jewish life for all life cycle events from bris (circumcision) to Chevra Kadisha preparation for funerals.

Troy newspapers took a special interest in Jewish weddings and reported more elaborate weddings from as early as the 1860s since Jewish weddings appeared somewhat exotic to non-Jews. (38) The Jewish neighborhood provided a sense of security for several generations of Jewish immigrants. Jews could walk to a kosher bakery or butcher shop, or purchase at one of the Jewish owned businesses on River Street. Julius Platt, who emigrated from Poland in 1920, remembered walking down 1st and 2nd streets on a Saturday afternoon and smelling “’ fresh Challos and tsholent from most houses.” As a young man, he delivered kosher meat, and residents often urged him to stay for a “taste of Kugel or chicken soup.’’ (39)

Changes in the Jewish community began as early as 1908 when Chai Adam’s members realized they lacked the financial resources to continue as an independent congregation and merged with Beth Israel Bikur Cholem under Rabbi's leadership Hyman Lasker. The rabbi arrived in 1895 and served as rabbi for Chai Adam and Sharah Tephilah. With the merger, he also served as rabbi for Beth Israel. Lasker emerged as a well-respected rabbi in the Capital District, leader of the Orthodox Jews and the Zionist movement in Troy, and a public figure in Troy for decades because of his public service and philanthropic contributions until he died in 1932.

Lasker delivered the principal address at the cornerstone corner for Beth Israel’s new synagogue on River Street on 24 October 1909. Comparing Russia to the United States, Lasker reminded the audience of the persecution of Jews in Russia and cordiality between Jewish and Christian clergy in America. Lasker urged the community to drop the ethnic distinctions that divided local Jews. He “urged that there should be no distinction between the German, Russian, and Hungarian Jews.” (40) Troy’s political leaders complemented the congregation and Troy's Jews for constructing a new synagogue; Republican Mayor Elias Mann laid the cornerstone and gave a speech, as did Rensselaer County Judge M. Tierney, an Irish Catholic Republican. Several other members of Troy’s political leaders attended to endorse the Jewish house of worship. When the synagogue was dedicated on 26 September 1910, the press gave a good deal of favorable coverage to the event, suggesting that Jews had become a recognized and respected community segment. (41) Once again, Troy’s political leaders, Democrats, and Republicans, Protestants and Catholics, blessed the construction of a new synagogue and the acceptance of Jews as an integral part of the community, not the other.

America offered the opportunity for religious freedom that Rabbi Lasker celebrated, and Americanization and immigration restriction in the 1920s reduced the ethnic divisions within the Jewish community. Jews and Gentiles honored Rabbi Lasker for twenty-five years of service to the Jewish community. For his philanthropic endeavors in 1920.42, Freedom in America created a double-edged sword for Orthodox Jews. It provided the ability to maintain their religious values but allowed their children to choose other options. In 1928 younger members of Orthodox congregations met and decided to abandon elements of traditional Judaism. They wanted to adopt mixed seating, simplify some prayers, and use more English in religious services. Reform Judaism of Temple Berith Sholom went too far in making innovations in traditional Jewish practice, but clinging to Orthodox Judaism did not fit the American environment and appeared a legacy of the Old World. Even the gifted leadership of Rabbi Lasker could not stop the movement for change and the impact of Americanization. The grown children of Orthodox Jews established Temple Beth El in 1929, a Conservative congregation, incorporated on the 23 April 1929 with Rabbi Joel Geffen as its first religious leader. Beth El’s founding took place simultaneously with the creation of Conservative synagogues in Albany and Schenectady. Many American born children of Orthodox Jews moved into the Conservative Movement. Conservative Judaism would soon develop into the dominant branch of American Judaism. Orthodox Judaism in Troy gradually declined due to Americanization, assimilation, immigration restriction, and the aging of the immigrant generations. In 1961 Beth Israel and Sharah Tephilah merged into Beth Tephilah, followed by Beth Jacob of Cohoes joining in 1968. The Orthodox Jewish community continued to decline in membership and financial resources.

Community Institutions


Rabbis did not like secular Jewish communal institutions' proliferation from the middle of the 19th Century into the early 20th Century. Clubs, fraternal organizations, societies, lodges, and other communal associations usually did not monitor members' behavior or admonish members to fulfill specific religious obligations. In America, a “decoupling of previously fused ethnic and religious components of Jewish group life and self-identification” developed.

“Yiddishkeyt---as a folk or a people with a common history---became separable from Judaism” and produced “a rapid proliferation of religion unrelated social and cultural institutions.” (43) Jews in Troy joined for fellowship, socializing, helping the needy, preserving Jewish identity, and creating a sense of belonging. (44) Jewish residents of Troy established numerous institutions for social, fraternal, and philanthropic purposes. In November 1873, Troy’s Jews established the Hebrew Benevolent Society assists the poor, aid in the burying of the dead and provides fellowship to its members. The Jeremiah Lodge of Bnai Brith, founded in October 1866, a chapter of a national organization of German Jews, attracted a membership consisting of main congregants of Berith Sholom. According to a local paper, this “social gathering of our Jewish fellow citizens” in November 1867 “was very largely attended and was in every aspect a complete success.” (45) In 1872, Polish Jews founded a chapter of another fraternal organization, Joshua Lodge of Kesher Shel Barzel(Chain of Iron). In the 1880s, the Alexander Lodge of Brith Abraham opened, and it appealed to German and Hungarian Jews. Chapters of the Free Sons of Israel and the Sons of Benjamin were chartered. These fraternal organizations “combined ideals of ideals of mutual benefit with social and recreational functions.”(46) These organizations began as grassroots societies from Jewish male immigrants and their children to create a community sense. The lodges fostered social responsibility, fellowship, and Jewishness (Yiddishkeyt). Chapters of these fraternal organizations existed in every significant Jewish community from New York City to Buffalo, including Troy, Albany, and Schenectady. Members of the community did not ignore politics. Liberal Jews organized the Hebrew. Progressive Lodge in 1918, Conservative members of the community could join the Albany based Jewish Republican Club in the 1920s. More radical Jews followed Albany's model, a chapter of the Workmen’s Circle was formed in 1904 and established a Troy chapter. Combining socialism, Yiddish culture, and fraternal organizational structure, Workmen’s Circle (Arbeiter Ring) appealed to Jews from Poland, Lithuania, and Russia, especially those who belonged to the Jewish socialist labor movement in the Russian Empire, known as the Bund. Some Jewish socialists joined the Schenectady based Jewish section of the Socialist Party. Jewish anarchists joined the Albany-based Germinal group sympathetic to the views of Jewish anarchist Emma Goldman.

By 1905, Jewish women established several charitable and social associations. Berith Sholom developed the first Sisterhood in 1893, and women in each of the other synagogues created their own Sisterhoods. Female members of Beth El created the last of the Sisterhoods in 1929. As early as 1877, twelve women organized the Ladies Hebrew Benevolent Society to provide financial aid and emotional support for the Jewish community's poor and transient members. In 1883, women founded the Rebecca Chapter of Kesher Shel Barzel.

Women also established the Hebrew Shelter Society and Ladies’ Hebrew Aid Society. Jewish women in the Capital District usually associated with Reform synagogues started chapters of a national organization, the National Council of Jewish Women, as Troy and Albany did.

Troy women created one of the first female chapters of the Zionist movement, Daughters of Zion, in 1898, and sent women as representatives to national Zionist conferences. (47) Later, in 1926 women created a Troy chapter of Hadassah, another Zionist group known for its charitable work. Like male societies, women’s groups cared for the sick, arranged for women's burials, provided charity, and engaged in social events, like picnics, “dime parties,” and theatricals. Women organized Purim balls as a mixture of dancing, fun, and an effective way to raise money for the poor. Jewish women’s societies emphasized helping women in distress and alleviating the community's female members' poverty. (48) Women’s groups served a social function to create community bonds in a new land and retain a Jewish identity.

Sisterhoods allowed women to engage in social activities and fellowship within congregational boundaries. Simultaneously, groups like Daughters of Zion or Ladies’ Hebrew Aid Society ignored these limitations and provided a public space for Jewish women.

In 1912 a group “of the young Hebrews of the city” met and formed the Young Men’s Hebrew Association (YMHA) and incorporated it in 1913. (49) A YMHA chapter first appeared in Troy in 1879 but mysteriously collapsed. Apparently, the new Y grew out of two Jewish groups of the early 20th Century, the American Israelite Club and Herzl Literary Association, organized in 1906. Young men looking for activities that did not fit within synagogues or fraternal organizations took the lead to organize the Ys. Younger immigrants and the American born sons of East European immigrants went to work at an early age. Still, they longed for recreational opportunities, especially the American sports of basketball, baseball, and football.

Initially, the Y rented rooms until it purchased a club headquarters at 87 First Street in 1917. It grew from twenty members in 1912 to 450 in 1918 and created affiliated branches, Juniors, and Young Judeans. Women established a Ladies Auxiliary in 1916 that became Young Women’s Hebrew Association (YWHA). Y’s developed in the United States in the mid-19th Century as recreation, education, social activities, and athletics in a Jewish environment. Ys “combined literary activities with sports, edifying lectures with exercise and fun."’ (50) Young Jewish men developed the Y movement independently of the later YMCA.

The Ys maintained strong connections to Jewishness and sponsored Jewish religious activities. Under the United Hebrew Charity Organization's joint auspices, the Y hosted a Hebrew School starting in 1924. Rabbi Lasker conducted religious meetings for Jewish young people at the Y in the 1920s. The Y sponsored Friday night Sabbath services. From its inception, the Troy YMHA served the community for other Jewish groups, like Zionist youth groups that met at the Y. It became an institution for the whole Jewish community, their “Communal Home.” (51) Reform and Orthodox Jews could work together at the Y with the approval of rabbinical leaders. (52) The Y combated anti-social behavior, like juvenile delinquency, and served as an agent for Americanizing the immigrant while retaining Jewishness. Ys helped Americanize East European immigrants while providing “a valuable social and cultural forum.”(53) During World War I, the Y combined social, athletic, educational, and recreational functions with patriotic service to the community through soldiers' and sailors’ welfare. Because of the war-related work, President Woodrow Wilson blessed the Y movement, and it reassured American Jews and Jewish immigrants concerned about their acceptance into American society. (54) By the late 1920s, the Y movement gave birth to the Jewish Community Center of Troy. Similar JCCs appeared in Albany, Schenectady, and every Jewish community in New York, where a Y chapter existed. Community centers broadened the sense of Jewish identity combining secular and religious components. Historian Howard Sachar argued that Jewish community centers “translated Judaism, and Jewish identity, into the widest ambit of Jewish civilization.” (55)

Kaddish for President Lincoln (56)


While speaking at the laying of the cornerstone of Beth Israel in 1909, Rabbi Lasker proclaimed to the audience: “Let us be patriotic, American patriots, and Jewish believers. Let us teach our children to be ready to shed their last drop of blood for their country, America. Let them hold up the Bible in one hand and the flag of the Stars and Stripes in the other.”(57) Rabbi Lasker emphasized one of Troy’s Jews and American Jewish history's major themes-- American-born Jews and Jewish immigrants' desire to be considered Americans while retaining their Jewish identity. When major events took place, national tragedies, the deaths of presidents, and the two world wars, Jews wanted to show their loyalty to their adopted country.

Troy's Jewish citizens, all recent immigrants, adopted resolutions on 17 April 1865 expressing their regrets at “the death of our beloved President,” Abraham Lincoln. Two days later, the “synagogue of the Jewish congregation, Anshe Chesed, was draped in mourning.” All the Jews in Troy and many Christian Germans joined in the traditional Jewish mourning service led by Rabbi H. G. Salomon paid tribute to the fallen president. The rabbi also stressed that Jews were “true and loyal citizens.” Congregational President, Frank Hartsfeld, followed saying that “the name of Lincoln will be identified with our nationality and greatness.” (58) Members of Anshe Chesed and many Christian Germans joined in the Kaddish, the traditional prayer for President Lincoln's death. Jews and non-Jews, members of the Concordia Society, a German language literary and social club on River Street, held their own service to commemorate “the sad and untimely death of President Lincoln.” Frank Hartsfeld, president of that association and the synagogue, and Rabbi Salomon spoke in honor of the murdered president and Christian members. Following President Andrew Johnson's proclamation, all the churches and Anshe Chesed held a second set of religious observances for Lincoln on 24 April 1865. (59)

The Jews of Troy showed their loyalty as Americans in other national tragedies. When Charles Guiteau killed President James Garfield in July 1881, all the Jews in Troy met in a joint meeting to honor President Garfield's memory. (60) A few years later, when former President Ulysses Grant died, Berith Sholom held a memorial service for the president. (61) The murder of President William McKinley in 1901 coincided with the Jewish High Holidays, and hundreds of synagogues in New York City paid their respects to the assassinated McKinley. Jews felt sorrow at his death because, for many Jewish immigrants, McKinley symbolized American freedom from Russian persecution. Rabbi Lasker, an immigrant from Russia, paid respect to McKinley at Sharah Tephilah, describing him as “one of the best of our Presidents.”(62) Congregation Berith Sholom held its own memorial service for the “martyred President.”(63) When President Warren G. Harding died of natural causes in 1923. Rabbi Lasker held a joint memorial service with other congregations at Sharah Tephilah. Lasker emphasized Harding’s endorsement of Zionism. Rabbi Lasker eulogized Harding for supporting the right “that we, Israelites, should be recognized as a nation with a claim to our ancient home, Palestine.” (64) In April 1945, the Orthodox congregations held a special memorial service for President Franklin Roosevelt while Rabbi Charles Lesser at Berith Sholom led a service for “Franklin Roosevelt, the Modern Moses.”65 Finally, after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in November 1963, the Jewish community held memorial services at Berith Sholom,66 Holding commemorations and special services for assassinated presidents and those that died of natural causes allowed the Jewish community to show their loyalty to America and shared bonds of sorrow with other Americans. By holding services in synagogues, the Jewish community reinforced their identity as Americans, their Jewishness, and the acceptance of Jews in American society. As Rabbi Lasker had urged in 1909, Troy’s Jews repeatedly showed their American patriotism from Lincoln's assassination to Kennedy's murder.

World War I provided another opportunity for Jews to prove their identity as Americans. During World War I, Troy’s Jews demonstrated their loyalty by joining the military, supporting the troops, and engaging in civilian related wartime activities. The local Jewish newspaper printed the roll of honor of Jewish men from Troy in the American armed forces.

Approximately 172 Jewish men from Troy and vicinity saw service. Also, Harry Rubenstein from Hoosick Fallsjoined the Canadian military and was severely gassed at the Battle of Cambrai. The Germans killed almost all of the 2,500 men in his regiment, and only about a dozen survived. Twenty-year-old Hyman Koplivitz, son of Rabbi Koplovitz, of 117 River Street, joined the Jewish Legion of the British Army and saw duty in Palestine. Several Troy Jews suffered wounds in service, like Benjamin Fivel, He had previously been stationed along the Mexican border and was one of the first men from Troy sent overseas. His three brothers were also in the Army. (67) One Jewish soldier from Troy, Private David Chodikoff, of 138 Third Street, was killed in action on 26 July 1918. David was the Treasurer of the YMHA.

His two brothers, Max and Israel, also served in the U.S. Army, but they survived the war. (68) Sergeant David Brown, a YMHA member, was gassed at Chateau-Thierry, and at Mt. Blanc carried messages under heavy artillery fire “for which he was recommended for the Croix de Guerre.”(69) Unfortunately, some of the draft boards in the Capital District engaged in anti-Semitism, as the Tri-City Jewish Chronicle editor noted, “we have heard rumors of anti-Semitic utterances and actions.” The editor, Rabbi Joseph Jasin of Reform Gates of Heaven synagogue in Schenectady, emphasized, “there must be no compromise with anti-Semitism at a time like this.”(70) Even in the middle of the war, some Trojans in positions of power could not put aside their hostility toward Jews.

Members of the YMHA kept in contact with Jewish men in the military. When five Jewish boys from Troy were drafted and sent for training, the YMHA gave them a “rousing farewell reception” in May 1918. The Y was “thronged with friends and relatives of the departing boys, and who had gathered to bid them farewell.” President Joseph Hormats and YWHA President Rose Epstein “delivered stirring farewell addresses” (71). In service, Jewish boys received mail, comfort kits, and Hanukkah kits from the Y. Men in the military frequently asked whether the Troy YMHA basketball team had defeated the Albany or Schenectady, teams. They also wanted the latest news from Troy. Members of the Jewish community opened up their homes to Jewish boys from outside the area stationed at the Watervliet Arsenal, inviting Jewish soldiers to visit for Sabbath dinners or participate in Passover seders. The Jewish Welfare Board in Troy, Albany, and Schenectady reached out to Jewish soldiers from the Capital District. It helped Jewish men stationed at military camps in the region, as the Troy Welfare Board aided Jewish soldiers stationed at the Watervliet Arsenal. Rabbi Lasker led a local drive for Liberty Loans, and his raising of $15,000 won the praise of the citywide Liberty Loan committee. Joseph Hormats became a member of the city’s War Savings Stamp Campaign. Members of the YWHA engaged in Red Cross activities and welfare work to support the war and joined Troy's Patriotic League because of many war-related actions. (72) Troy’s Jewish community helped Jews in the military and engaged in activities that supported the war effort carrying out Rabbi Lasker’s suggestion that Troy Jews should be patriotic Americans. Mayor Cornelius Burns, an Irish American Catholic and Democrat, praised Troy’s Jewish community for their contributions to the war effort. Jews gave “their sons and daughters in the war for democracy,” telling the Jewish community what they wanted to hear that Jews were patriotic Americans and not the other. (73) What is less clear is whether any local Jewish socialists or anarchists engaged in anti-war protests or were rounded up during the post-war Red Scare?

Jewish veterans of World War I met several times after the war but did not organize until 1935. (74) War veterans in Troy, Albany, and Schenectady formed chapters of Jewish War Veterans, a national organization, because they were concerned about the rise of anti-Semitic activities and meetings of local chapters of the German American Bund, a pro-Nazi group.

On at least one occasion, members of the Troy Jewish War Veterans disrupted a Bund meeting at Germania Hall on River Street. The Jewish War Veterans promoted the message that Jews were patriotic Americans and in 1936 ran a full-page advertisement recording the service of Jews in American wars, especially World War I.75 Spurred on by the veterans and YMHA, the Jewish community followed the example of Jews in Albany and Schenectady establishing the Troy Jewish Community Council, as an umbrella organization for all Jewish associations. The idea for community councils developed in Utica in the 1930s to pool financial resources in the Depression. Meanwhile, the Jewish War Veterans endorsed the neutrality laws and opposed American involvement in another war in Europe. (76)

Events, however, created a new group of men serving in the military. Once World War II began, local Jews volunteered or got drafted and served as sailors, soldiers, or marines. At least 355 men spent time in the Army from 1940-1945. As in World War I, one local soldier, Joseph Weissblum, died in combat, and Congregation Beth El created the Weissblum Memorial Library to honor a fallen congregant. During the war, the Jewish Welfare Board reached out to men in service and provided aid to Jews assigned to camps in the Capital District. The Welfare Board coordinated fundraising and community events. Community members raised money for War Bonds and Saving Stamps, and women staffed USO Clubs. Members of the Y and Jewish Community Center kept in touch with boys in uniform. Families invited Jewish men from outside the military camps for Passover seders, High Holiday meals, and Sabbath dinners. Members of the Jewish Welfare Board adopted Camp Rucker in Dothan, Alabama, to send comfort packages to Jewish men stationed there.

To show unity and combat anti-Semitism, the Y and Jewish Community Center joined with Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox churches in National Brotherhood Week. Ministers and rabbis exchanged pulpits to show common bonds between religions and wartime unity. (77) When the war in Europe ended, Troy’s synagogues responded to President Harry Truman’s call for special services of thanksgiving by joining the victory services of all churches, synagogues, and other worship houses May 1945. This reinforced the belief that we were all Americans who shared a common sacrifice and a joint victory despite religious differences. (78)

Unfortunately, anti-Semitism did not end with victory in Europe or knowledge of the Holocaust. Troy Jews continued to express concern about anti-Semitism in this country. Representatives of upstate Jewish communities met in Troy in 1948. Sponsored by the American Jewish Committee and B’nai B’rith, upstate Jewish leaders met to discuss lingering bigotry. The Jews of Troy wanted to feel at home in America, but as late as 1948, they did not totally feel safe from the anti-Semitism their parents and grandparents fled Europe to escape. (79)

Solidarity of All Israel


Jews living in Troy identified with co-religionists at home and abroad. The Jewish community tried to help Jews in Europe and Palestine during foreign crises and supported efforts to create a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Abraham Nissan, a representative of the Jewish community in Tiberias, Palestine, arrived in the United States in 1861-62 to raise money for a synagogue and school. He stopped in Schenectady, Albany, and Troy in 1861. Congregations contributed, including ten dollars from Anshe Chesed.80 As early as 1896, several Jews in Troy organized a chapter of Lovers of Zion and solicited donations. In the wake of the First Zionist Congress held in Basle, Switzerland, in 1897, American Zionists quickly joined together in the Federation of American Zionists. Rabbi Lasker established two of the earliest Zionist groups in the United States, the Daughters of Zion and Sons of Zion chapters in Troy. Both chapters sent delegates to attend the 4 July 1898 meeting in New York City and endorsed the immigration of Jews to Palestine, encouraged the use of Hebrew, and promoted Jewish national consciousness. (81) When Theodore Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism, died in July 1904, Troy Zionists held a memorial service at Sharah Tephilah. Rabbi Lasker delivered the principal address. (82)

Troy Jews joined with other American Jews to condemn government-inspired pogroms against Jews in the Russian Empire between 1903-1905. On 19 November 1905, Jews in Troy held a mass meeting to protest the pogroms. Rabbi Lasker gave the major speech denouncing the Russian government. He called on the Jewish community to participate in a national campaign, led by prominent American Jews, like Jacob Schiff, to raise funds for sufferers of the pogroms. Jews held a second meeting on 24 November to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the first Jews arriving in America at Berith Sholom. Troy’s Jews celebrated their American identity by decorating the pulpit with a large American flag, hearing the Reform Rabbi Meyer Noot praise the long history of Jewish contributions to America, and singing “America.” Also, Rabbi Noot seconded Rabbi Lasker’s call for Troy's Jewish community to donate to help “their persecuted brethren in Russia.” Jews raised $1,500 for Russian relief. (83) In light of the persecution of Jews in Russia, there appeared only two options---Jews should go to Palestine or come to America. A Troy newspaper, Troy Times, argued, the time had come for the restoration of a Jewish homeland in Palestine, but expressed the concern that “the United States stands between the Jews and Zion,” since America became the asylum for the Jews of Russia. The editor was correct since Russian Jews in far larger numbers preferred the promised land of New York to Jerusalem in the wake of the pogroms. (84)

When World War I began in 1914, American Jews began a campaign to raise money for food and medicine to send to Jews in Eastern Europe displaced by the war and aid Jewish settlements in Palestine. Initially, Workmen’s Circle, Jewish labor groups, Orthodox Jews, Zionists, and the American Jewish Committee started separate campaigns to raise funds. Still, they soon agreed to collaborate through the Joint Distribution Committee, which assumed the responsibility to distribute relief to Jews abroad. President Woodrow Wilson declared 27 January 1916 as Jewish Relief Day. The Troy Jewish Relief Committee, headed by H. H. Butler as chair, and Mrs. Charles Laub, as chair of the Ladies Committee, solicited contributions from Jews and non-Jews in Troy and neighboring towns for the relief effort. Members of the Orthodox and Reform congregations supported the campaign, including Rabbi Lasker and Berith Sholom Isabella Hess's prominent congregant. Mayor Cornelius Burns, an Irish American Catholic, and Irish-born Monsignor John Walsh signed the appeal letter endorsing the campaign adding to the Jewish appeal's ecumenical nature. Two Catholic priests donated to Jewish relief. (85)

Troy Jews continued to raise money for the displaced Jews of Eastern Europe until 1920. Zionist groups grew in Troy and United States during World War I, and Tri-City Jewish Chronicle recorded Zionist meetings and fundraising for Jews in Palestine. In June 1920, “the Jewish residents of this city turned out in large numbers this afternoon” and marched through the streets of Troy to buses carrying them to Albany to celebrate the freedom of Palestine from the Turks. (86)

As the war ended, Polish troops killed 30,000 Jews along the Polish-Soviet borders. Ukrainian nationalists, anti-Bolshevik White Army soldiers, and some Red Army troops participated in the murder of 100,000 Jews in Ukraine. Another 150,000 Jews died of disease, exposure, and starvation in Ukraine. These atrocities were the worst mass murder of Jews in three hundred years. On 20 May 1919, the Jews of Troy held a mass meeting “against the massacres of our brethren in Poland” at Beth Israel synagogue under auspices of the YMHA. The meeting adopted resolutions asking the American government to intervene to stop the killings and sent copies to President Woodrow Wilson. (87) In December 1919, Troy Jews went to Schenectady in a Capital District Jewish meeting to protest the massacres in Ukraine. (88)

The meeting adopted resolutions condemning the attacks and sent them to the Secretary of State. Robert Lansing and President Wilson.

Ten years later, Arab pogroms against Jews in Palestine brought out the Jewish communities in Troy in protest. Jews held a mass meeting on 3 September 1929 at Beth Israel to protest the Arab attacks, pray for the dead, and solicit contributions for the Palestinian Jewish community members. They passed a series of resolutions condemning the attacks and calling on the British government to live up to the Balfour Declaration recognizing a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Troy’s Jews sent copies to President Herbert Hoover, Secretary of State Henry Stimson, and the British Ambassador. (89)

Even before the Night of the Broken Glass, Troy’s Jews expressed their concerns about the fate of Jews in Germany. As a result of meetings on 9 and 10 October 1938, Jews sent copies of resolutions to Washington. Benjamin Chuckrow acting for the Jewish War Veterans, wired President Franklin Roosevelt to pressure the British to open Palestine for Jewish refugees. Acting for Orthodox congregations Beth Israel and Sharah Tephilah, Rabbi Isaac Telcher telegraphed President Roosevelt, and Secretary of State Cordell Hull helped persuade the British to allow more German Jews into Palestine. (90)

In the wake of the Night of the Broken Glass, the Troy press joined with the Jewish community in criticizing German behavior. One newspaper described the attacks on Jews as “a reign of terror quite unlike anything the world has known since the days of barbarism.” (91) In another editorial, the paper reminded residents of Troy of the Thanksgiving season, and in Germany, “hundreds of thousands of persons are being robbed of their possessions, hunted like wild beasts, driven from their homes, and deprived of their citizenship.” (92) Another Troy newspaper denounced “the outrageous persecution of the Jews.”93 One thousand Jews attended a talk by Rabbi Stephen Wise on 10 November 1938 attacking anti-Semitism and Hitler. (94) Each of the synagogues held special services “for the oppressed people of Europe” on 20 November 1938. (95) Over six hundred Jews attended a mass meeting on 21 November at the Jewish Community Center to raise funds to help Jews in Germany and Palestine. Another two hundred Jews met in Cohoes at Beth Jacob to aid Jews in Germany. Activities in Troy and Cohoes formed part of a national campaign by Jewish organizations to solicit donations for German Jews. (96)

Nationally, Protestant and Catholic leaders attacked German anti-Semitism in the wake of Kristallnacht. Locally, the American Labor Party approved resolutions condemning German anti-.

Semitism. Student representatives of area colleges met to condemn the Nazis but divided on the action. Siena and St. Rose endorsed a boycott of German goods, but RPI, Union, Sage, and Skidmore voiced reservations. On 13 November 1938, several Protestant ministers in Troy, Baptist, Methodist, and Presbyterian delivered sermons expressing outrage at Germany’s persecution of the Jews. In the wake of Kristallnacht, Jews, Catholics, and Protestants appeared united in condemning Germany's actions and anti-Semitism. (97)

Once World War II began and the Germans invaded Poland in 1939, the Troy Jewish community's options to aid the Jews of Europe became limited. In January 1940, Rabbi Stephen Wise spoke at the Jewish Community Center as part of a national campaign to raise funds to help Jews in Germany and Jewish refugees.98 By December 1941, reports appeared in the press of the extermination of Jews in the Soviet Union. On 12 August 1942, the Jewish people of Troy and vicinity met at Sharah Tephilah to commemorate “in sorrow for the massacres of the Jews of Europe” and men killed in combat. (99) Jews in Troy held a second service of mourning for Polish Jews on 2 December 1942 led by Rabbi Isaac Teicher of Beth Israel and Sharah Tephilah. (100)

For Troy’s Jewish community, the only solution for Jewish survivors was migration to Palestine, and the Zionist movement grew during World War II as a refuge for European Jews. On 4 April 1943, Congregation Beth El joined with 500 Conservative synagogues across the United States to support Zionism. The other Jewish congregation in Troy also held special services or meetings for Zionism. (101) In November 1943, Beth El paid tribute to Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann and the need for a Jewish homeland in Palestine. (102) The Troy Times Record agreed in an editorial: “The Coming Jewish State,’ that Zionism offered the best refuge for the persecuted Jews of Europe. When the war ended, the newspaper published another editorial: “Zionism Today,” supporting Palestine as the refuge for Holocaust survivors. (103). Troy’s Jews met in October 1945 at the Jewish Community Center to pray “to open the doors of Palestine to these distraught people in Europe.” (104)

Some Jews in Troy and in neighboring Albany, Cohoes, Amsterdam, Gloversville, and Schenectady went beyond prayer. Donations were used to purchase ships to smuggle Jews from Europe to Palestine, hoping to avoid the British blockade. Searchlights, medical supplies, and weapons were donated or purchased and sent via Montreal to defend Jewish settlements in Palestine. Jews purchased arms at sporting goods stores, collected them from veterans, or raised money to turn them into gold bars to purchase Czechoslovakia arms for the Haganah. The Jewish self-defense agency in British controlled Palestine. Members of the Jewish community also purchased surplus weapons from the Watervliet Arsenal and searchlights from the Schenectady Navy Depot. Local Jews contributed bedding and supplies for two local agricultural training camps for Aliyah to Palestine, one outside Cohoes and the other at a farm in Averill Park near Troy. One young woman who went through one of the Aliyah farms married the son of future Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir. Jews in Troy met at Sharah Tephilah on 16 May 1948 to celebrate Israel's independence and pray for the survival of the Jewish nation. (105)

When Israel appeared endangered in 1967 and 1973, Troy’s Jews rallied to support the Jewish state. At an emergency meeting on 8 June 1967, an overflow crowd of 600 people jammed the Jewish Community Center to voice their support for embattled Israel, as Beth El Rabbi Herman Horowitz proclaimed, “Israel is here to stay. Its life is not negotiable.” (106) Troy’s United Jewish Appeal set a goal of $250,000 to assist Israel. In 1973, 300 Jews met at the Jewish Community Center on 8 October to demonstrate support for Israel and raise money for Israel’s defense. Rabbis of the three Troy congregations gave speeches, as did other Jewish leaders, including the Jewish Community Council president and RPI’s Hillel president. This followed a mass rally held in Albany the night before. Jews from throughout the Capital District “displayed their support for Israel.” (107) Troy’s Jews, from 1861 to 1973, showed their consistent support for the plight of Jews in Europe and Palestine, as well as the endorsement of Zionism from 1896 to the creation of Israel.


Conclusion


Studying Troy’s Jews is history from the bottom up. Looking at the Jewish community's development illustrated the unique nature of the Jewish experience as a small religious minority in the Hudson Valley and upstate New York and a non-Christian immigrant group's problems.

As poor peddlers, tailors, and small shop keepers, they pooled their resources and created a community out of nothing. The immigrants established a minyan, wrote synagogue constitutions, rented or built a synagogue, purchased land for a cemetery, and hired a rabbi. Each of the Jewish congregations maintained a community that reflected the values, language, and ritual customs, whether German, Hungarian, Polish, or Russian, brought with them from Europe. These events got repeated in every Jewish community from New York to Buffalo but became more difficult and unique in the small Jewish communities in the Hudson Valley.

What the congregations and their rabbis could not stop was the journey to Americanization. Berith Sholom represented the movement away from traditional Orthodox Judaism to Reform. German Jews tried to cling to German Kultur as the membership and leadership of the ConcordiaSociety showed and was a common feature of German Jews whether in Troy, Albany, or Schenectady. The American born children of Berith Sholom abandoned German in favor of English as part of Americanization. The children of Orthodox Jews found traditional Judaism old fashioned and switched to the more American Conservative Judaism of Beth El. The four Orthodox congregations in the Troy area eventually blended into the one remaining congregation due to Americanization, assimilation, the immigration laws of 1921 and 1924 that cut off new Jewish immigration, and the death of the immigrant generation.

The ferment in the Jewish communities in Europe, especially in the Russian Empire, reappeared in America. Poor Jewish immigrants found solace in the four synagogues within walking distance in the Jewish neighborhood of Troy. Others found a sense of community in fraternal, benevolent, or organizations like the Y. Fraternal organizations, like the Order of Brith Abraham or Free Sons of Israel, combined Jewish oriented symbols with American ones. They provided solidarity, fellowship, and served as agents of Americanization that filled the needs of Jewish male immigrants. Women created their own organizations to find the same sense of solidarity and community. These groups did not exist in Europe and sprang up in America to fill the needs of an immigrant generation just as the Y movement filled the needs of the children and grandchildren of immigrants looking for recreation, education, athletics, and community in a Jewish and American setting. The Y and Jewish Community Center mixed religious and secular events, reinforcing a sense of Jewishness.

Jews wanted to identify as Americans. They saw service in World War I and II and respected. American leaders as evidence of their identification as Americans. From Kaddish for President Lincoln to the murder of President Kennedy, Troy’s Jews demonstrated their respect for American political leadership. They welcomed the respect that local political leaders, Protestant and Irish Catholics, displayed to the Jewish community by attending the major events in the life of the Jewish community, whether in the dedication of Berith Sholom or support for Jewish Relief Day in 1916. Jews wanted recognition as Americans, not as the “other.” Finally, as Jews made their way from peddlers to professionals, they repeatedly showed their support for Jews abroad, whether in 1905, 1919, 1929, 1938, or 1973.

About the author: Harvey Strum is a history and political science professor at Russell Sage College in Troy and Albany. His most recent publications include: America’s Mission of Mercy to Ireland, 1880, New York History, 2018; Schenectady’s Jews, Zionism, New York History Review, 2019, 2020.


ENDNOTES

   1 New Jewish Chronicle, (Schenectady, N.Y.), 19 February 1919. This newspaper underwent several name changes in its brief history during the World War I period. The paper was the newspaper of the Capital Region Jewish community. Rabbi Jasin, of Reform Gates of Heaven, in Schenectady, edited the paper. He was a committed Zionist, unlike the Reform leadership in Albany.

2 B.G. Rudolph, From Minyan to Community: A History of the Jews of Syracuse (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1970); Harvey Strum, “Schenectady’s Jewish Immigrants,” New York History Review 11 (2017): 124-55; S. Joshua Kohn, The Jewish Community of Utica (New York: American Jewish Historical Society, 1959); Stuart Rosenberg, Jewish Community of Rochester (New York: Columbia University Press, 1954); Eva Goldin, The Jewish Community of Poughkeepsie, New York (Poughkeepsie: Marr Printing, 1982); Selig Adler and Thomas Connolly, From Ararat to Suburbia: The History of the Jewish Community of Buffalo (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1960); Rabbi Naphtali Rubinger, Albany Jewry of the Nineteenth Century (D.H.L., Yeshiva University, 1970). Published by University Microfilms, 1971; Lance Sussman, Beyond the Catskills: Jewish Life in Binghamton, New York, 1870-1970 (Binghamton: SUNY Binghamton, 1989); Herbert Engel, Shtetl in the Adirondacks: The Story of Gloversville and Its Jews (Fleischmanns, N.Y.: Purple Mountain Press, 1991). For two general studies of Jewish life in small towns and medium-sized cities: Lee Weissbach, Jewish Life in Small-Town America (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005); Ewa Morawska, Insecure Prosperity: Small-town Jews in Industrial America, 1890-1940 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996).

Hoosick Falls Historical Society has photos of several Jewish-owned businesses that existed in the town---for example, Sol Levine’s Sol’s Friendly Service, a gas station, and M. Lurie and Company Department Store.  Their files contain a few pages of the minutes of the synagogue for the 1890s. Copies of the full minutes are available on a subscription Jewish genealogical site. For a summary of the minutes, Rabbi Abraham Laber, “A viable village synagogue,” Jewish World, August 9, 2007, 25. The “Hebrew Synagogue” is mentioned in the local business directories from 1904-1931. Members of the Miller family donated their house to the Hoosick Falls Historical Society. Millers Market was the major supermarket in the town for decades. For the mass meeting for Jewish relief, Troy Times, 1 November 1919.

4 For Cohoes, see, for example, Tri-City Jewish Chronicle, March 1918, 128. Also, Henry Rickman, city editor, Cohoes Republican, “Jewry in Cohoes,” Tri-City Jewish Chronicle, December 1917, 29. For fund raising, Troy Times, 22 October 1919. For the growth, decline, and fall of many small Jewish communities, Lee Weissbach, Jewish Life in Small-Town America, 296-313. Weissbach does not mention Cohoes, Hoosick Falls, or Rensselaer County.

Jewish Agricultural Society, Jews in American Agriculture (New York: Jewish Agricultural Society, 1954), 16; Nassau Synagogue and Jewish Community Center, Sharing the Light (Nassau: Nassau Synagogue and Jewish Community Center, 2016), 6, 9-11. The Morris Schwartz Papers, New York State Library, Albany, contain the records of a cooperative fire insurance company of Jewish farmers and mentions their credit union. The rye bread quote is taken from Christopher Ringwald’s interview with Dr. Max Panitch in Christopher Ringwald, Harvey Strum, and Jim Wilson, Jewish Farming Communities of Northeastern New York (Albany: Sage Colleges Rathbone Gallery, 1998), 26. This was a catalogue of an exhibit on Jewish farmers of Rensselaer County, 23 February to 22 March 1998, at the Rathbone Gallery on the Albany campus of the Sage Colleges. 

Larry Fader, Welcome to the Jewish Immigrant Farmers of Rensselaer County (Nassau: Rensselaer County Farmers’ Reunion, 2016). Descendants of the Jewish farmers shared stories of times on the farms and family histories. For the Catskills, Abraham Lavender and Clarence Steinberg, Jewish Farmers of the Catskills (Gainesville, Florida: University Press of Florida, 1995), 218-19. The quote about Nassau synagogue is taken from Ringwald’s interview with Dr. Max Panitch cited above. 

7 For Glens Falls, see Congregation Shaaray Tefila Collection at Crandall Public Library, Glens Falls, New York. Also: Congregation Beth El Collection, 1925-1935, Leo Baeck Institute Archives, New York. Online, see the LBI Digital Collections.

8 Troy Daily Whig, 1 October 1859.

9 S. Nathan, “The Troy Jewish Community.” The Tri-City Jewish Chronicle, December 1917, 25; L. Loe, “Troy,” The Jewish Encyclopedia (New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1905) Vol. 12:238.

10 Occident, Vol. 9. No. 7, (October 1851), 383. Also, see Lance Sussman, Beyond the Catskills: Life in Binghamton, New York, 1850-1975 (Binghamton: Studio Art Gallery, SUNY Binghamton, 17-26 May 1989), 9. This was an exhibition catalogue. In addition, Samuel Rezneck, A Century of Temple Berith Sholom (Cohoes: Richman Press, 1966), 5. This was a history published by the synagogue to commemorate its anniversary. 

11 Gerald Sorin, A Time for Building: The Third Migration, 1880-1920 (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992), 5; For Syracuse, B.G. Rudolph, From A Minyan To A Community, 2; Rochester, Stuart Rosenberg, The Jewish Community in Rochester, 3-13; Poughkeepsie, Eva Goldin, The Jewish Community, 3-11. Initial Jewish settlers in Utica a mix of immigrants from Germany and Poland, S. Joshua Kohn, The Jewish Community of Utica, 9-15. Jewish arrivals in Buffalo came from Germany, Selig Adler, From Ararat to Suburbia, 12-38. For Albany, Rabbi Rubinger, Albany Jewry, 180-200 and Louis Silver, “The Jews of Albany, N.Y.,” YIVO Annual of Jewish Social Science (1954):216-219. For Kingston and Newburgh, see the online descriptions of the synagogues and brief historical accounts. 

12 Hasia Diner, A Time for Gathering, The Second Migration, 1820-1880 (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992), 11-12.

13 Gerald Sorin, A Time for Building, 14. Proste yidn in Yiddish meant the poor common people, the average Jews in Eastern Europe immigrating to America, page 18. 

14 Samuel Rezneck, Temple Berith Sholom, 4. For Syracuse and Albany, Hasia Diner, A Time for Gathering, 68. The exception to all Jews speaking Yiddish were 150,000 Jews who emigrated from the Ottoman Empire or Greece who spoke a Spanish based language with Hebrew letters known as ladino. A small number from Greece spoke a separate Greek-Hebrew mix, Romaniote.

15 Isaac M. Wise, Reminiscences (Cincinnati: Leo Wise and Co., 1901. 1st edition; 2nd edition, New York: Central Synagogue, 1945), 47.

16 “Subscriptions for Synagogue, March 1870,” Berith Sholom, Troy, New York, American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati, Ohio. (AJA). The AJA has a small collection of material related to Berith Sholom, but the American Jewish Historical Society, in New York City, appears not to have any records of congregations in Troy.

17 Walter Shapiro, Hustling Hitler (New York: Penguin Random House, 2016), 26-27.

18 Allan Cohen and Gabe Izraelevitz, “The Jewish Immigration into 19th Century Troy,” student paper, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, 1981, Appendix A. 

19 Walter Shapiro, Hustling Hitler, 24.

20 Hasia Diner, Time for Gathering, 119. Also, see Charles Reznikoff, translator, I.J. Benjamin, Three Years in America, 1859-1862 (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1956), Vol. I 284. Benjamin offers a description of the Jewish community in Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, and Albany in 1860 but fails to mention Schenectady or Troy. 

21 Troy Daily Whig, 1 October 1864. For some details of the Hebrew Bible Case, Samuel Rezneck, Berith Sholom, 6.

22 Ibid, 5, citing an 1864 issue of the Whig. For how stereotypes about Jews can lead to strange Christian behavior toward Jews, see the most recent work on the ritual murder case in Massena, New York in 1928, Edward Berenson, The Accusation: Blood Libel in an American Town (New York: W.W. Norton, 2019). A few miles north of Troy in 1877 in Saratoga Springs, the Grand Hotel would bar Joseph Seligman, a prominent Jewish banker and friend of former President Grant, publicizing the discrimination against Jews in resorts, hotels, and restaurants that became popular in the 1860s and 1870s and would continue for generations. Like the Mohawk Club in Schenectady or the Fort Orange Club in Albany, clubs in the Capital District followed the Grand Hotel model and barred Jews until the 1960s. Colleges would start limiting Jewishadmissions in the 1920s, with some colleges not removing restrictions until the 1970s. 

23 Hasia Diner, A Time for Gathering, 191-200; Gerald Sorin, A Time for Building, 51-55,164-68; Howard Sachar, A History of the Jews in America (New York: Vintage Books, 1992), 274-334; Naomi Cohen, “Anti-Semitism in the Gilded Age: The Jewish View,” Jewish Social Studies 41 (Summer/Fall 1979): 187-220.

24 Hasia Diner, A Time for Gathering, 198;  Interview of Rabbi Avraham Laber with Marty Silverman, in 2000, when Silverman, a philanthropist, was 88, in  Rabbi Avraham Laber, 

“Jewish Life in Troy,” in Jim Richard Wilson, edited An American Shtetl: Jewish History and Community in Troy, NY (Albany: Rathbone Gallery of Sage Colleges, 2001), 26.

25 Walter Shapiro, Hustling Hitler, 27. Hyman was Walter Shapiro’s great grandfather. 

26 Ibid, 27-28,

27 Ibid, 27.

28 Hasia Diner, A Time for Gathering, 193.

29 Troy Daily Whig, 6 June 1864; Troy Daily Times, 6 June 1864.

30 Cited in Samuel Rezneck, Berith Sholom, 7.

31 Isabella Hess, 1870-1935 Sixty-Fifth Anniversary 5630-5695 (Troy: Berith Sholom, 1935) 3. Used copies from AJA and in the Leonard Lewis Rosenthal Collection, Rensselaer County Historical Society (RCHS). Copy available at New York State Library.  For the appeal, “Subscriptions for the Synagogue, March 1870,” Berith Sholom, AJA. Gilbert’s contribution is listed. A copy of the incorporation papers in 1866 of Baris Sholem (Berith Sholom), folder 1, Rosenthal Collection, RCHS. Original at Rensselaer County Clerk’s Office, Troy, N.Y.

32 Troy Daily Whig, 12 June 1870. Also, 7,  11 June 1870. Troy Press, 12 June 1870. Also, 11 , 13 June 1870.

33 Constitution and By Laws of the Congregation Berith Sholom and By-Laws of the Chevra Kadisha, 20 November 1870. Temple Berith Sholom, AJA.

34 For the dedication, Troy Press, 23 September 1870; Troy Daily Whig, 23, 30 September 1870. Nathaniel Sylvester, History of Rensselaer County, New York (Philadelphia: Everts, 1880), 249.

35 Troy Press, 5 August 1870.

36 Ibid; Incorporation Papers, Bikur Cholim, 24 October 1870, copy in folder 1, Rosenthal Collection, RCHS. Also, see in the same folder, Golden Anniversary Dinner, Beth Israel Bikur Cholim Souvenir Program, Troy, 31 December 1950, 1, 3. Copies of synagogues' incorporation papers can be found at Rensselaer County Clerk, Troy, New York. 

37 Incorporation Papers, Sharah Tephilah. 15 November 1875, folder 8, Rosenthal Collection, RCHS; Troy Press, 10 October 1887; Troy Daily Whig, 10 October 1887. Also, see a letter of recommendation from Sharah Tephilah for Yaakov Gershon Mendelsohn, the assistant rabbi, cantor, mohel, and butcher for the congregation, 1899, in the Archives of Yeshiva University, New York City. Also, for some items and notes by Leonard Rosenthal about Sharah Tephilah, see Folder 2, Rosenthal Collection, RCHS.

38 Rabbi Laber, “Jewish Life,” An American Shtetl, 25; As an example of a Jewish wedding coverage, see Troy Daily Whig, 18 November 1870. Amelia Gross, daughter of Congress Street merchant Louis Gross, married a River Street fur dealer, Samuel Monni. As another example, see Troy Times, 25 January 1909 for the Gertrude Karp-Morris Kossoff wedding. 

39 Rabbi Laber, “Jewish Life,” An American Shtetl, 25. Rabbi Laber interviewed Julius Platt.

40 Troy Times, 25 October 1909; Troy Record, 25 October 1909; Troy Press, 25 October 1909; 

Utica Saturday Globe, 18 September 1909, 12 has an article on Beth Israel. 

41 Troy Times, 26 September 1910; Troy Record, 27 September 1910.

42 Troy Times, 29 December 1920, 13 December 1934; Troy Record, 4 January 1932, 30 August 1932; Troy Observer Budget, 23 January 1934; For the merger, see Troy Times Record, 28 August 1961. Rabbi Joel Geffen’s Rabbinical Papers, Special Collections, the Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary, New York City. See Box 35 and Folders 1-10 in Box 36 that cover Geffen’s tenure at Beth El from 1929-1944. For a copy of the consolidation agreement between the two synagogues in 1961, Folder 3, Rosenthal Collection, RCHS.

43 Ewa Morawska, Insecure Prosperity, 135.

44 For a general overview of secular Jewish organizations, see Hasia Diner, A Time for Gathering, 86-113. Also, each history of a Jewish community in New York goes into the importance of these community organizations. For example, Eva Goldin, The Jewish Community of Poughkeepsie, 59-87; Stuart Rosenberg, The Jewish Community of Rochester, 71-132; Selig Adler, From Ararat to Suburbia, 379-89, 396-98. (Buffalo); B.G. Rudolph, From a Minyan to a Community, 127-154 (Syracuse), and S. Joshua Kohn, The Jewish Community of Utica, 40-104.

45 Troy Daily Whig, 14 November 1867. Fast forward to the 1940s, Bnai Brith, Troy Lodge, 10, October 1943 includes a short history, Folder 11, Rosenthal Collection, RCHS.

46 Hasia Diner, A Time for Gathering, 109; Also, see Arthur James Weise, History of the City of Troy, (Troy: Edward Green, 1876), 344, 348. Many Polish Jews belonged to the Free Sons of Israel, including the author of this article's author. 

47 L. Loe, Jewish Encyclopedia, 12: 267.  For a Ladies’ Hebrew Benevolent Society meeting announcement, Folder 11, Also, printed invitation to a Membership Tea for Senior Hadassah of Troy, Rosenthal Collection, RCHS.

48 Hasia Diner, A Time for Gathering, 96-97.

49 Rutherford Hayner, Troy, and Rensselaer County New York: A History (Troy, 1925). Vol II, 437. For details on the history of the Troy Y: “The Troy YMHA,” Tri-City Jewish Chronicle, March 1918, 117; YMHA Sliver Anniversary, 13-20 November 1938 includes by Samuel Rosenthal, “Twenty-five Years of Progress,” a history of the Y. Certificate of Incorporation of the Young Men’s Hebrew Association of Troy, N.Y., 12 November 1913; Constitution of the Young Men’s and Young Women’s Hebrew Association of Troy, N.Y.; Souvenir Journal of the 22nd Annual Convention of the New York State Federation of YM and YWHA’s and Jewish Community Centers, 20-21 November 1937; Handwritten Journal of YMHA Juniors of Morris Rosenthal, Secretary, 3 December 1917-20 February 1918. Copies of the Y records, Jewish Historical Society of Northeastern New York, located in the Jewish Federation offices, Albany, N.Y. Also, Benjamin Rabinowitz, Young Men’s Hebrew Associations, 1854-1913 (New York: National Jewish Welfare Board, 1948), 23-24; Special Passover Services of the YM and YWHA, 29 March 1918 at Beth Israel, Folder 1, Rosenthal Collection, RCHS; Joseph Hormats, “The Y.M.H.A. Movement,” Tri-City Jewish Chronicle, March 1918, 113. Hormats, President of the Troy Y led the effort to organize it and in 1918 also served as President of New York State Federation of YMHAs. President Roosevelt congratulated the Y on its 25th anniversary, see Irving Myers to Franklin Roosevelt, 12 October 1938 and President Roosevelt to Irving Myers, 15 October 1938, 5581, Roosevelt Papers, FDR Presidential Archives, and Library, Hyde Park, N.Y.

50 Hasia Diner, A Time for Gathering, 107.

51 Troy Times, 24 February 1918, Vol 41, Scrapbook. Microfilm, Local History Room, Troy Public Library. 

52 Troy Record, 18 October 1920, Vol. 52, Scrapbook, Troy Public Library. 

53 Howard Sachar, Jews in America, 157.

54 Troy Record, 13 February 1918, Vol. 41 Scrapbook, Troy Public Library. 

55 Howard Sachar, Jews in America, 705. For the JCC, also see, Troy Times-Record, December 1932, Vol. 91, Scrapbook, 183, Troy Public Library; Troy Times Record, 27 November 1935.

56 Kaddish is the Jewish prayer for the dead usually said at the end of each service for Congregation’s members who recently died or on the anniversaries of their death. 

57 Troy Times, 25 October 1909;

58 Citizens of Troy, Tribute of Respect by the Citizens of Troy to the Memory of Abraham Lincoln (Albany: J. Munsell, 1865), 98-99, 157-160. The Manuscript Division of the New York State Library, Albany, N.Y. holds a copy. 

59 Ibid, 237-38, 330. Also, very brief mentions in Troy Daily Times, 20, 24 April 1865.

60 Troy Press, 27 September 1881.

61 Troy Daily Times, 25 July 1885.

62 Troy Press, 20 September 1901; Troy Daily Times, 20 September 1901

63 Troy Press, 20 September 1901.

64 Troy Record, 10 August 1923; Troy Times, 10 August 1923. 

65 Troy Times-Record, 13 April 1945.

66 Troy Record, 25 November 1963.

67 Tri-City Jewish Chronicle, November 1918. The roll of honor is in December 1917 issue but is a partial listing since it does not include men enlisted or drafted in 1918.The figure for the Jewish men in service, Troy Times, 23 February 1920. For the impact of World War I on the Jews of the Capital District,  Harvey Strum, “To Aid Their Unfortunate Coreligionists: Impact of World War I on the Jewish Community of Albany,” Hudson River Valley Review, Spring 2016, 53-75.

68 Tri-City Jewish Chronicle, December 1918. 

69 Ibid, “Troy Y.M.H.A News,” August 1919, 210.

70 Ibid, “No Compromise with Anti-Semitism,” March 1918, 120.

71 Ibid, “Troy Tid-Bits,” June 1918.

72 Ibid, “A Chronicle of the Capital District,” November 1918, 15, on liberty loans, Hormats, February 1918, and YWHA, March 1918, 118.

73 Troy Times, 26 October 1920.

74 Ibid, 23 February 1920, 27 August 1919; 18 February, 10 May 1920; 9 July 1935, 16 November 1936.

75 Troy Times Record, 14 June 1936.

76 Ibid, 12 January 1936.

77 Ibid17 April 1943, 10 September 1942; 20 February 1943. For a partial list of Troy Jewish boys in uniform, 21 April 1943. For Camp Rucker, see 9 March 1943 and 3 March 1944. For more details on the Jewish Welfare Board activities, 28 September 1943.

78 Ibid, 11 May 1945.

79 Ibid, 21 May 1948.

80 Salo and Jeanette Baron, “Palestinian Messengers in America, 1840-1879: A Record of Four Journeys,” Jewish Social Studies, Vol. 5, No.2 (April 1943) and 3, 151-52, 160.

81 Herbert Parzen, “The Federation of American Zionists, (1897-1914),” 247 in Isadore Meyer, ed., Early History of Zionism in America (New York: Arno Press, 1977). Full article, 245-74. Also, for the early history of Zionism in Troy, “The Zionist Movement,” in Troy Times, 28 May 1918.

82 Troy Times, 18 July 1904.

83 Ibid, 20 November 1905; Troy Daily Press, 18, 24 November 1905 For the Berith Sholom meeting, Troy Times, 25 November 1905; For the amount raised in Troy, “$1,111,183 For Jews’ Relief,” New York Times, 10 December 1905, 8.

84 Troy Times, 10 June 1903. The editorial was in response to the Kishinev pogrom.

85 Troy Jewish Relief Committee, 22 January 1916 in Abraham Karp, The UJA in the shaping of the American Jewish Community to Give Life (New York: Schocken Books, 1980), 53; Also, see the appeal letter in Troy Times, 25 January 1916. For contributors, Times, 22,23,24,25,29 January 1916; Troy Record, 22, 25, 27, and 28 January 1916.

86 For Jewish relief, see Tri-City Jewish Chronicle, 1918-1920; Troy Times 8 March, 30 April, 14 September, 10, 21, 22,25, 28 October 1919. For Zionism, Tri-City Jewish Chronicle, 1918-1920; Quote, Troy Times, 3 June 1920. Also, see 28 May 1918, 18 January, 26, 29 February 1919, 8 July 1920.

87 Tri-City Jewish Chronicle, June 1919, 157.

88 Ibid, November, December 1919, January 1920. For a copy of the flyer for the “Big Mass Meeting to Protest against the Massacres and Pogroms of Jews in Ukraina and Eastern Europe” in Schenectady, Folder 18, Rosenthal Collection, RCHS; United Jewish Community of Schenectady to Secretary of State Robert Lansing and President Woodrow Wilson, 16 May 1919 for an earlier protest similar to the Tory protest, in Wilson Papers, Library of Congress.

89 Troy Times, 29 August, 4 September 1929; Troy Record, 29, 30 August, 4 September 1929.

90 Troy Times Record, 11 October 1938.

91 Troy Northern Budget, 13 November 1938.

92 Ibid, 27 November 1938. Also, see the editorial, 20 November 1938.

93 Troy Times Record, 18 November 1938. Also, see the anti-Nazi editorials of 16 and 23 

November 1938 that denounce the persecution of German Jews. 

94 Ibid, on Wise 11 November 1938.

95 Ibid, 19 November 1938.

96 Ibid, 28 November 1938 for Cohoes; For Troy, 22, 26, 28 November 1938. For the national movement against German anti-Semitism, Troy Northern Budget, 13, 17 November 1938; Troy Times Record, 17, 22 November 1938.

97 Troy Northern Budget, 20 November 1938 for American Labor Party; Troy Times Record 23 November 1938 for the meeting of students. For the clergy, 14 November 1938. I contacted the American Baptist Historical Society, Presbyterian Historical Society, and the Methodist Historical Society, but none contained records of the Troy Protestant ministers who spoke out against German anti-Semitism.

98 “The Trojan Answer to Persecution,” 22-29 January 1940, Folder 10, Rosenthal Collection, RCHS.

99 Troy Times Record, 11 August 1942.

100 Ibid, 3 December 1942.

101 Ibid, 3 April 1943.

102 Ibid, 27 November 1943.

103 Ibid, 6 November 1944; 1 October 1945.

104 Ibid, 1 October 1945.

105 Ibid, 17 May 1948. The information on actions taken from 1945-48 comes from tapes of meetings of the Jewish Historical Society of Northeastern New York. Jewish residents of Albany, Schenectady, Troy, Amsterdam, Gloversville, and Cohoes spoke about their actions or that of relatives from 1945-48 in aid of Israel's creation. These activities remained clandestine. I loaned the tapes from Anita Merims, Treasurer of the organization. Some of the comments on a tape from the April 1998 meeting. I had discussions about the weapons with two individuals on the tape in 2003 and 2005.

106 Troy Times Record, 9 June 1967.

107 Ibid, 9. 10, 15, 1973. 

 

 

       

 

 

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