Park Slope Jewish Center re-traces its past

In hopes of organizing an historical exhibit, the Park Slope Jewish Center — whose research team has discovered missing huge gaps of its history — is researching its past. The synagogue, located on the corner of 14th Street & Eighth Avenue, is casting a wider net into the broader Brooklyn community in hopes of finding people with information.

“Part of the problem, is that the synagogue only became the Park Slope Jewish Center in the past 40 some odd years,” said head researcher and exhibit curator Lisa Altshuler. “Although the building that houses the congregation was built in 1927, there have been many transformations so there is no one institutional memory, and no one entity archiving its past. It is heartbreaking to have so much lost to us.”

The synagogue has undergone various name changes, which reflect a joining and separating of different synagogues: in 1888, it started as B’nai Sholaum; 1897, B’nai Jacob; 1900, Tifereth Israel; in 1942, B’nai Jacob and Tifereth Israel merged and the synagogue’s name became B’nai Jacob -Tifereth Israel.

More recently, in 1960, the synagogues B’nai Jacob-Tifereth Israel and B’nai Sholaum merged and the institution finally assumed its present name, Park Slope Jewish Center. The congregation B’nai Jacob is now a separate synagogue located elsewhere in Park Slope.

Other pieces of known information, which may jog Brooklynites’ memories are names of past PSJC congregational rabbis and presidents: Rabbi Asher M. Yaeger, the first rabbi of PSJC; Rabbi Julious Hettleman, who was rabbi from 1968-1980; and some past presidents: Maurice Keisler, Aaron Cohen, Irving S. Moss, and Arnold E. Lehrfeld. In addition, an original building benefactor was Louis Stolitzky.

“We have an entire memorial wall filled with unfamiliar names,” said Altshuler. “How wonderful it would be to know something about and honor those who came before us.”

The synagogue’s research team is looking for past interior or exterior photos of the synagogue, existing historical information such as membership records, deeds, or donations, names of PSJC members and staff from earlier decades, and other interesting tidbits about the synagogue building or the current or previous congregations’ histories.

Anyone with information should email Altshuler at capital.campaign@psjc.org, or call her at 718-789-2480 or 347-613-9302.

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