Institutions  /  Synagogues

Jews in Greater Buffalo have created synagogues across all streams of Judaism, and in a variety of places from homes to rented buildings and architectural gems.

Overview

The Buffalo region has a long history of diverse religious life that began in the nineteenth century and continues today. Buffalo’s first synagogue, Congregation Bethel was established in 1847. Composed of families from Polish and Central European Jewish backgrounds it soon became Temple Beth El. Several small breakaway groups formed after its founding and by 1850, Beth Zion formed. Initially orthodox like Beth El, within a few years it became the region’s first Reform synagogue in 1863 and aligned with the Reform movement in 1864. Temple Beth Zion continues as a Reform synagogue in Buffalo, while Temple Beth El moved from orthodoxy to Conservative Judaism. Beth El and Beth Zion reveal one of the key patterns of religious lives in Buffalo and other American Jewish communities: constant invention and reformulation. Synagogues appear, merge, revive, change religious practice, and even close, as their leadership, members, locations and forms of worship change.

The pattern of founding, splitting and self-definition flourished during the building of the East Side as a Jewish neighborhood from the 1880s, where each synagogue distinguished itself through its community of origin or custom of worship. Eight major Orthodox synagogues were established and sometimes known by the streets on which they settled. Their geographic names, like Pine Street, Little Hickory Street and Jefferson Street Shul placed them in their neighborhood surroundings, yet their Hebrew names revealed more. Anshe Sokolovka (People of Sokolovka, founded 1917) recalled links to home town origins. Ahavas Sholom (Lovers of Peace, founded 1890) and Anshe Emes (People of Truth, founded 1912) and Ahavas Achim (Loving Brotherhood, founded 1897) spoke about their founders’ aspirations and identity.

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With growing affluence and transportation options, Jews moved neighborhoods and created new congregations on the West Side of the city, including Beth Abraham built on Elmwood. A small cluster of temples formed in the Humboldt and Ferry sections of mid-Buffalo, including Ohel Jacob, Temple Beth David and the Humboldt Orthodox Center. Around the same time in the mid-1920s and 1930s, synagogues like Temple Emanu-El and Anshe Zedek formed in North Buffalo. From the mid 1940s and onwards, however, several more synagogues emerged in North Buffalo through a series of mergers that brought many of the East Side and mid-town shuls together in North Buffalo, including Ahavas Achim-Lubavitz and B’rith Israel-Anshe Emes. North Buffalo congregations merged as well, for example: Temple Beth David-Ner Israel.

By the 1950s, wholly new suburban congregations sprang up in the green spaces of Amherst and Williamsville, including Temple Sinai as Buffalo’s first and only Reconstructionist congregation, and Temple Beth Am, a suburban Reform synagogue. These two temples later formed the nation’s first joint Reconstructionist-Reform merger as Congregation Shir Shalom. Other city-based congregations like Temple Beth Zion established religious schools as their suburban branches in the suburbs. From the 1970s, many new congregations adhering to different varieties of Orthodoxy laid down roots in the suburbs. These included Young Israel, the Jewish Discovery Center, and Kehillat Ohr Tzion. Other congregations began to move from orthodoxy to Conservative Judaism like Ahavas Achim-Lubavitz, whose religious schools in the suburbs evolved into Congregation B’nai Shalom. It was also in the suburbs that new forms of congregational organization were born, including Congregation Havurah and Kehillat Shalom. Mergers are also an increasing part of life in the suburbs. Temple Shaarey Zedek, itself a merger of several North Buffalo congregations formed Temple Beth Tzedek when it merged with Temple Beth El in 2008. Another merger expanded to include the former Congregation B’nai Shalom.

City hubs remain on Delaware Avenue and West Side, and in North Buffalo, but most synagogues are now in the suburbs. Some organizations have both city and suburban sites including Chabad in North Buffalo and Williamsville. Quite a few names and communities have disappeared completely with little, if any, surviving records. It has been the challenge of community leaders, builders and benefactors, to maintain organizations across a broad geographic spread, however, maintaining and invigorating Jewish lives in Jewish religious institutions and organizations the city and the suburbs continues. See below for a map of past and present synagogues. For further information about Buffalo’s current synagogues, visit the Community Directory at the Buffalo Jewish Federation.

Synagogues

Ahavas Achim

Ahavas Achim

Synagogues  /  Ahavas AchimCongregation Ahavas Achim was incorporated in 1897 and known as the Fillmore Avenue Shul from 1912. OverviewThe Fillmore Avenue Shul was incorporated as Congregation Ahavas Achim in 1897.  In 1911, the congregation hired Buffalo society...

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Ahavas Achim-Lubavitz

Ahavas Achim-Lubavitz

Synagogues  /  Ahavas Achim-LubavitzAhavas Achim-Lubavitz was a merger of two former East Side synagogues—Ahavas Achim and Anshe Lubavitz that made the leap from the East Side to North Buffalo in 1950.OverviewAhavas Achim-Lubavitz was a merger of two former East Side...

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Ahavas Sholem

Ahavas Sholem

Synagogues  /  Ahavas SholemCongregation Ahavas Sholem formed as an orthodox synagogue of the East Side of Buffalo in 1890. It was also known as the Jefferson Street Shul and the Jefferson Avenue Shul. It was one of the last congregations still in operation on the...

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Anshe Emes

Anshe Emes

Synagogues  /  Anshe EmesCongregation Anshe Emes was founded as Russian Hasidic Shul on the East Side of Buffalo and was also known as the Little Hickory Shul.OverviewCongregation Anshe Emes (c.1906-1947) was founded as a Russian Hasidic shul on the East Side around...

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Anshe Lubavitz

Anshe Lubavitz

Synagogues  /  Anshe LubavitzAnshe Lubavitz was founded as a Hasidic Shul incorporating in 1890 and was known locally as the Pratt Street Shul from 1911.OverviewAnshe Lubavitz was founded as a Hasidic Shul that incorporated in 1890 with many of the members originally...

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Anshe Sokolivka

Anshe Sokolivka

Synagogues  /  Anshe SokolivkaThe congregation of Anshe Sokolivka formed around 1908 and was also known as the Spring Street Shul.OverviewKnown as the “Spring Street Shul,” Anshe Sokolovka built their congregational home at 350 Spring Street in 1917, between William...

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Anshe Zedek

Anshe Zedek

Synagogues  /  Anshe ZedekAnshe Zedek was originally founded as Ohev Zedek in 1925, otherwise known as the Hungarian Synagogue. Following a name change to Anshe Zedek, the congregation purchased 85 Saranac Avenue in 1931. In 1952 the shul changed its name to...

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Beth Jacob

Beth Jacob

Synagogues  /  Beth JacobBeth Jacob, also known as the Clinton Street Shul was founded in the nineteenth century as a breakaway from Congregation Brith Sholem.OverviewBeth Jacob synagogue was founded in 1881 based on orthodox lines drawing members of Prussian,...

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Brith Israel-Anshe Ames

Brith Israel-Anshe Ames

Synagogues  /  Brith Israel-Anshe AmesBrith Israel-Anshe Ames of North Buffalo was a merger of two former East Side synagogues neighbors: “Big Hickory Street” and “Little Hickory Street,” orthodox shuls.OverviewBrith Israel-Anshe Ames of North Buffalo brought together...

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Brith Sholem

Brith Sholem

Synagogues  /  Brith SholemBrith Sholem was founded as an orthodox congregation in 1865 from an existing mutual benefit society. After reincorporation in 1892, the congregation moved to Pine Street in 1893. Despite a move to North Buffalo in 1951, Brith Sholem was...

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Congregation B’nai Shalom

Congregation B’nai Shalom

Synagogues  /  Congregation B’nai ShalomCongregation B’nai Shalom (Children of Peace) originated as a suburban school extension of Ahavas Achim-Lubavitz, that later became the congregation’s new permanent home and new name.OverviewCongregation B’nai Shalom (Children...

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Congregation Beth Abraham

Congregation Beth Abraham

Synagogues  /  Congregation Beth AbrahamCongregation Beth Abraham grew out of East Side orthodoxy but made its congregational home on Elmwood Avenue, initially at 1045, and then eventually settling at 1073 in the former home of Temple Beth Israel, a rival congregation...

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Congregation Brith Israel

Congregation Brith Israel

Synagogues  /  Congregation Brith IsraelCongregation Brith Israel was founded as the first Russian Hasidic Shul on the East Side of Buffalo in 1887 and was also known as the Big Hickory Shul.OverviewCongregation Brith Israel was founded as the first Hassidic “Russiche...

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Congregation Havurah

Congregation Havurah

Synagogues  /  Congregation HavurahCongregation Havurah was founded in 1972 as a lay-led fellowship allied with Reform Judaism. It is located in Williamsville, NY, and has a high holiday annual retreat in Chautauqua, NY.OverviewIn 1972, a new style of congregation...

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Congregation Ohel Jacob

Congregation Ohel Jacob

Synagogues  /  Congregation Ohel JacobCongregation Ohel Jacob was founded as an orthodox synagogue in the mid 1920s and was incorporated in 1930. It was active in the Ferry-Humboldt area until the early 1950s.OverviewCongregation Ohel Jacob was founded as an orthodox...

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Congregation Shir Shalom

Congregation Shir Shalom

Synagogues  /  Congregation Shir ShalomIn 2012, Temple Sinai and Temple Beth Am merged to form Congregation Shir Shalom, the world’s first jointly constituted Reconstructionist-Reform congregation. The new congregation selected the synagogue and school complex of...

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Congregation Tifereth Zion

Congregation Tifereth Zion

Synagogues  /  Congregation Tifereth Zion Congregation Tifereth Zion was founded as an orthodox synagogue in the mid 1930s by Rabbi Rubin Weinstein.OverviewIn the mid 1930s, Rabbi Rubin Weinstein founded Congregation Tifereth Zion. Initially located at his home at 356...

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Humboldt Orthodox Shul

Humboldt Orthodox Shul

Synagogues  /  Humboldt Orthodox ShulThe Humboldt Orthodox Shul formed in 1940 and was also known as the Glenwood Avenue Shul. Located in the Humboldt area of Buffalo, it was led by Rabbi Gedaliah Kaprow for much of its history.OverviewHumboldt Orthodox Center was...

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Kehilat Shalom

Kehilat Shalom

Synagogues  /  Kehilat ShalomKehilat Shalom was a lay led traditional-Conservative congregation, located in the suburbs and active from 1977 to 2002.OverviewKehilat Shalom (Hebrew: Community of Peace) was formed in 1977 as a family-oriented, traditional-conservative...

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Saranac Shul

Saranac Shul

Synagogues  /  Saranac ShulThe Saranac Shul was founded in North Buffalo as Yeshivath Achei Tmimim Lubavitz in 1940 and is now Congregation Achei Tmimim. The congregation moved to 85 Saranac Avenue in the 1950s. OverviewCongregation Achei Tmimim was founded in 1940 in...

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Temple Beth Am

Temple Beth Am

Synagogues  /  Temple Beth AmFounded in Amherst, NY during the mid-1950s as the “Suburban Congregation,” Temple Beth Am built its home in Williamsville, NY in 1959. In 2012 it merged with Temple Sinai to form Congregation Shir Shalom. OverviewTemple Beth Am,...

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Temple Beth David

Temple Beth David

Synagogues  /  Temple Beth DavidTemple Beth David was founded in the early 1920s and built a synagogue on Humboldt Parkway.OverviewTemple Beth David was the first synagogue to be founded at its inception as a synagogue affiliated with Conservative Judaism, although...

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Temple Beth David-Ner Israel

Temple Beth David-Ner Israel

Synagogues  /  Temple Beth David-Ner IsraelTemple Beth David-Ner Israel at 500 Starin Avenue was a merger of two congregations from two streams of Judaism: Conservative and traditional.OverviewThe fusion of a synagogue associated with Conservative Judaism and a...

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Temple Beth El

Temple Beth El

Synagogues  /  Temple Beth ElTemple Beth El, founded as Congregation Bethel was the first synagogue to be established in Buffalo in 1847. Soon after its formation it changed its name to Temple Beth El. The congregation moved several times within the city, eventually...

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Temple Beth Israel

Temple Beth Israel

Synagogues  /  Temple Beth IsraelTemple Beth Israel grew out of East Side orthodoxy and made its congregational home on the West Side in multiple sites, including its last at 1045 Elmwood. It merged with Congregation Beth Abraham in the 1950s. OverviewTemple Beth...

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Temple Beth Tzedek

Temple Beth Tzedek

Synagogues  /  Temple Beth TzedekTemple Beth Tzedek was established in 2008 through the merger of two existing synagogues associated with Conservative Judaism: Temple Beth El and Temple Shaarey Zedek. Initially located in the former Temple Shaarey Zedek synagogue in...

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Temple Beth Zion

Temple Beth Zion

Synagogues  /  Temple Beth ZionThe first and largest Reform synagogue in Western New York, Temple Beth Zion began as an orthodox congregation when it formed in 1850. It aligned with Reform Judaism in 1864 and continues to serve city and suburban members with two sites...

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Temple Emanu-el

Temple Emanu-el

Synagogues  /  Temple Emanu-elTemple Emanu-el was founded in 1924, and had a number of temporary homes along Hertel Avenue and Parkside until it purchased the former North Park Baptist Church, at Colvin and Tacoma in the 1930s.OverviewTemple Emanu-el was founded in...

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Temple Sinai

Temple Sinai

Synagogues  /  Temple SinaiFounded in 1952 in Amherst, NY, Temple Sinai was the first suburban and the first Reconstructionist synagogue in Greater Buffalo. In 2012 it merged with Temple Beth Am to form the world’s first jointly constituted Reconstructionist-Reform...

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Temple Shaarey Zedek

Temple Shaarey Zedek

Synagogues  /  Temple Shaarey ZedekPart of the stream of Conservative Judaism, Temple Shaarey Zedek formed in 1968 through a merger of two North Buffalo synagogues: Temple Emanu-El and Temple Beth David-Ner Israel. It committed itself to a suburban home in Getzville,...

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Young Israel of Greater Buffalo

Young Israel of Greater Buffalo

Synagogues  /  Young Israel of Greater BuffaloYoung Israel of Greater Buffalo began as an informal orthodox minyan in 1973 and formally incorporated in 1974. It built its synagogue on Maple Road in 1979 and has retained this congregational home over the entirety of...

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Synagogues Map