Congregation Mikveh Israel, Philadelphia, PA

Metadata

Title

Congregation Mikveh Israel, Philadelphia, PA

Digital Identifier

Congregation Mikveh Israel, Philadelphia, PA

Description

Congregation Mikveh Israel (officially Kahal Kadosh Mikveh Israel), known as the "Synagogue of the American Revolution" is one of the most historic Congregations of Jews in the United States. The oldest Congregation in Philadelphia, Mikveh Israel was informally established by religious minded Jews in British America during the 1740s, and has become the second-oldest surviving Congregation in all of the United States. In Pennsylvania, and Philadelphia in particular, Jews found an environment of tolerance for their religious beliefs and traditions made possible by William Penn's 'great experiment'. The possibilities of economic and religious liberties in Philadelphia drew many Jews to the area, and by 1775 a community 300 strong existed in a city of 35,000.

During the war of Independence, 1775-1783, Jews from New York, Easton, Lancaster, Richmond, Charleston and Savannah sought refuge in Philadelphia from the British occupation. Many members joined the ranks of the Patriots and fought for the revolutionary cause.

In 1782, the Congregation dedicated a new building on Cherry Street that sat 200 persons and had accommodations for the clergy adjoining it. In 1829 the congregation built an Egyptian Revival synagogue on Cherry Street. Designed by William Strickland, it is notable for having been one of the earliest Egyptian Revival buildings in the United States. After moving out of Center City, along with much of Philadelphia's population in the first half of the 20th century, the Congregation announced in 1961 that it would return to construct a new house of worship. A modest building, initially shared between the Synagogue and the Museum of Jewish History, was dedicated and opened in August 1976.

Among items in the archives of Congregation Mikveh Israel are letters written by George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, and a public subscription list for the 1782 building signed by Benjamin Franklin, David Rittenhouse, and other civic leaders. Several notable ritual items also exist, including ornamental bells (“rimmonim”) crafted by renown silversmith Myer Myers.

Selected Items from the Collection

A bound volume of birth certificates for members of Congregation Mikveh Israel, dating from 1841 to 1862. Each certificate includes the date of birth in both the Gregorian and Jewish calendars, the name of the newborn, parents' names, and the name of…

A bound volume of birth certificates for members of Congregation Mikveh Israel, dating from 1843 to 1886. Each certificate includes the date of birth in both the Gregorian and Jewish calendars, the name of the newborn, parents' names, and the name of…

Record of persons buried in both the Spruce Street Cemetery and Federal Street Cemetery of Congregation Mikveh Israel in the mid-19th century. Burials in the Spruce Street Cemetery are listed chronologically from the front of the book and span the…

Record of seat rentals at Mikveh Israel from 1857 to 1866. Entries are listed by name and include dates and amounts paid. There is an alphabetical index of names at the front of the volume.

Record of offerings to Congregation Mikveh Israel from 1857 to 1866. Entries are organized by name and include dates and amounts donated or loaned. There is an alphabetical index of names at the beginning of the book.

Record of deaths and burials, births and circumcisions, and marriages within Congregation Mikveh Israel between 1776 and 1843. Records of death include Hebrew and English dates and name of the deceased, as well as family relations and location of…

Minutes of the parnas (president of the congregation) and junta (board of managers) and general meetings of Congregation Mikveh Israel from 1782 to 1783. The majority of the minutes are concerned with funding and building a new synagogue. Other…

The official charter and constitution of the Congregation Beth El Emeth, singed by the original leaders of the congregation and incorporated by the Court of Common Pleas in Philadelphia in 1857. Beth El Emeth emerged from Mikveh Israel, under the…

Manuscript with cover sheet, which describes the manuscript thus: "Haym Salomon Manuscript, in hand of a professional amanuensis, of Salomon's own account of the purchase of the property and the financing of the construction of Synagogue Mikveh…

Four letters regarding the Hebrew Sunday school sponsored by Mikveh Israel: One letter from educator and philanthropist Rebecca Gratz, then secretary of the board of the Female Hebrew Benevolent Society, thanking parnas Lewis Allen for "carrying into…

Congregational minutes of Mikveh Israel, spanning 1810 to 1883. Topics covered include: elections to leadership and caretaking positions; admittance of new members; financial matters such as rents, fundraising, insurance and investments; renovation…

Printed worship service for the dedication of Mikveh Israel's new synagogue. Book is in Hebrew with English translation on the opposite pages.

The document is titled "Proceedings of the Board of Managers of K.K. M. Israel [Kahal Kadosh Mikveh Israel]; Under the new Constitution and Charter," but is only one page listing officers (parnas, adjunta, gabay, and secretary) for the congregation…

Petition for the building of a mikveh, a Jewish ritual bathing facility. Subscribers pledge contributions towards the building of the mikveh, although signatures are not included with the document.

Record of seat rentals for Congregation Mikveh Israel from 1845 to 1862. Seats are grouped by location and class; entries are listed by seat number and include the name of the purchaser or renter and yearly rent paid.

Record of funds received by Congregation Mikveh Israel from 1856 to 1874. Entries are organized by date, then names. Payments include seat rents, building rents, offerings and collections, initiation fees, and funeral costs.

Note: page numbering…

Alexander Wertheim was a Dutch Jew who lived in New York and Baltimore before settling in Philadelphia, where he became clerk to the Board of Health. He died in 1830 at the age of 55. This book is a record of the circumcisions Dr. Wertheim performed…

Meeting minutes of the Board of Managers, or "adjunta" of Congregation Mikveh Israel, from 1824 to 1870. Each entry includes the date and usually the location of the meeting, names of members present, and business discussed. Business discussed…

Account ledger recording donations toward the construction of the new Mikveh Israel Synagogue. Pages are numbered chronologically: records start in 1782, from what appears to be the back of the book as scanned, proceed backward through the book until…

Record of checks paid by Congregation Mikveh Israel from 1862 to 1910. Each check stub includes a check number, date, payee name, amount, and goods or services purchased. Examples of payments include mortgage interest, charitable donations, and…

Deed for a plot of land located in the Township of Moyamensing in the County of Philadelphia, granted by William G. Alexander and Joel B. Sutherland and their wives Catharine and Mary, to Congregation Mikveh Israel, for the sum of $2650 in 1841.

The majority of this book serves as a record of sundry accounts as drafted by the gabay (a position similar to a warden or a sexton) of Mikveh Israel, from 1824 to 1857. Accounts covered include seat rents/sales, ground and building rents, offerings…

Copy of a letter David Solis wrote to Rev. Isaac Leeser, who was the hazan of Congregation Beth El Emeth after retiring from Mikveh Israel. The copy was sent to the president of Beth El Emeth. Solis resigned his membership in the congregation due to…

Record of seat rentals for Congregation Mikveh Israel from 1827 to 1844. Entries are listed by seat number, and include the name of the purchaser or renter, and yearly rent paid.

The Society for the Visitation of the Sick and Mutual Assistance started as "the Hebra," or a sacred society that ensures the bodies of deceased Jews are prepared for burial according to Jewish tradition and protected from desecration before burial.…

Record of offerings given or promised to Congregation Mikveh Israel from 1786 to 1788. The book includes an alphabetical index of congregant names in the first two pages, followed by a listing of general offerings by quarter. More detailed records of…

Detailed account of money spent and received by Congregation Mikveh Israel; the first 20 pages are of a slightly smaller size, which have been inserted into the bound manuscript and contain balances from 1858 to 1876. A few notes and receipts from…
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