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Our Historic Congregation - Temple Concord Syracuse

color2On September 1, 1839, a group of German Jews founded Society of Concord in the back room of Bernheim and Block's wholesale notion store where most of these peddlers bought their merchandise. They soon moved to more hospitable quarters on the second floor of one of the member's offices.

By 1841, they were able to hire their first Rabbi: Abraham Guzenhauser. Under his ministry, the Congregation incorporated itself and acquired a cemetery.

By 1851, the small Congregation was prospering, and they built their first permanent structure on the corner of Harrison and Mulberry Streets in Syracuse. Hailed by the newspapers as an ornament to the section of the city in which it was situated, it was erected at a cost of $100,000. But the new building housed a growing disagreement among the members of the Congregation on matters of ritual observance. Torn between those who wished to continue with Orthodox traditions and those who wanted to move towards Reform practice, the congregation splintered in 1861. The majority of congregants, including the President, succeeded in adopting the Reform innovations of organ music, choir singing, English translations of Hebrew prayers and family pews for men and women.

A series of specific changes touched off the explosive break between the two factions. Temple President Joseph Falker decreed that men must remove their hats during worship services and claimed this was a way of getting rid of the Orthodox members, who walked out of Society of Concord in a body. The synagogue they founded, Adath Jeshurun (not the current Temple Adath Yeshuran), eventually reunited with Temple Society of Concord in 1925, but the bitterness over the schism lasted many years and, in some instances, tore families apart.

By 1883, temple Society of Concord hired an Austrian, Rabbi Adolph Guttman, who was to lead the Congregation for the next 36 years. Rabbi Guttman's Reform philosophy is best summed up in his motto, "Creed and Deed." He once said, "In our religion we are Jews, but in every other respect we are part and parcel of this great country, which we love with heart and mind. Its flag is our flag, its victories our victories, its defeats our defeats."

The congregation continued to prosper, and in 1911 dedicated the present temple, built at a cost of $100,000. In 1919, Rabbi Benjamin Friedman became the congregation's rabbi to be born in America. He served for a term that was to last for 50 years, bringing both change and permanence to the Temple. He brought reforms in worship and tradition, eliminated the assigned pew system and installed the first women on the Board of Trustees.

Over the years, aided by the generosity of its congregants, the temple gradually increased its facilities and space, adding the Religious School wing in 1961. When Rabbi Friedman retired in 1969, he was succeeded by Rabbi Theodore Levy, who led the Congregation until 1990, when Rabbi Sheldon Ezring assumed the pulpit.

Under Rabbi Ezring's spiritual leadership, the congregation continued to grow and move forward into the 21st Century. In July, 2009 Rabbi Ezring retired and is now Rabbi Emeritus as Rabbi Daniel J. Fellman became just the fifth rabbi to serve in the past 127 years. Now known as Temple Concord, the historic past is valued as the congregation looks forward to a vibrant future.

Based on research by Natalie Kalette and Ezra Greenhouse's "Society of Concord: 1839-1979, a Triumph of Dedication and Faith," printed in the 140th Anniversary booklet and available in the Temple's historical exhibit, and B.G. Rudolph's "From a Minyan to a Community: A History of the Jews in Syracuse" (Syracuse University Press, 1970), available in the Temple library.

Saturday, May 27 2017 2 Sivan 5777