Synagogues / Congregation Beth Abraham
Congregation Beth Abraham origins lie in the East Side and the incorporation of two separate synagogues in the early 1920s. A small group of Orthodox Jews led by Joseph Rosenblatt, an East Side baker by trade, wanted an orthodox congregation in the vicinity of Elmwood Avenue, near where they lived. The nearest synagogue on the West Side, Temple Beth El, had moved to Conservative Judaism increasing too modern and so Temple Beth Israel was created in 1919, meeting near Ashburn and later at Saint Andrews Scottish club at 509 Lafayette Ave. This group splintered in 1921 and the group that left took the name of Temple Beth Israel with them, while the remaining group, began meeting at the home of Abraham Luxenberg on Forest Avenue. This group incorporated in 1922 with the name Congregation Beth Abraham.
In 1923, Congregation Beth Abraham, bought a house at 1045, the one-time home of Temple Beth Israel. Morris Diamond began a Hebrew School at the synagogue and the congregation thrived. But the 1929 Crash ended that expansion, and the fortunes of Congregation Beth Abraham began to wane. For some time, however, Joseph Sapowitch, furniture dealer active in a number of Jewish causes, most notably, the Bureau of Jewish Education, helped Congregation Beth Abraham maintain its building as an increasing number of Jews (and members) moved out of the area to North Buffalo. In the 1940s, former members of Beth Jacob on the East Side (also known as the Clinton Street Shul), merged with Congregation Beth Abraham.
In the 1950s, the formerly independent Temple Beth Israel merged with Congregation Beth Abraham and made their joint congregational home at Temple Beth Israel’s home at 1073 Elmwood Ave. Both 1045 Elmwood Avenue and 1073 Elmwood Ave were built in the 1910s as Colonial Revival frame buildings with mainly double hung wood windows. 1073 Elmwood Avenue had formerly been the home of Elmwood Chapel of the United Brethren in Christ. A section at the back of the main sanctuary was allocated as the women’s section., rather than a separate Ladies Gallery that distinguished the 1045 Elmwood Avenue site. In 1957, the consolidation of the two congregations was formalized with Oscar Smuckler as counsel for Beth Israel and Maurice Yellen for Beth Abraham. By the 1990s, Congregation Beth Abraham changed its practice from orthodoxy to Conservative Judaism and has defines itself as an egalitarian synagogue since the 2010s.
Except for a handful of documents, Temple Beth Israel signage, and newspaper clippings , there are limited historical materials available for Congregation Beth Abraham and even less for the former Temple Beth Israel. Congregation Beth Abraham is seeking materials as it builds its archives. Over the last decade, members have been actively involved in restoration and upgrades to the structure, include historic and updated signage and a stair lift to improve accessibility to all members.
Newspaper Clipping References
- “To Dedicate New Synagogue,” Buffalo Evening News, December 14, 1922.
- “Congregation Honors Beth Abraham Founder ,” [Joseph Rosenblatt], Buffalo Evening News, May 24, 1934.
- “Jewish School Group to have Annual Dinner,” Buffalo Courier Express, February 12, 1940.
- City Briefs, Buffalo Evening News, May 6, 1945.
- “Court Approves Synagogue Merger,” Buffalo Courier Express, September 26, 1957. [Beth Israel at 1073 Elmwood and Congregation Beth Abraham, 1045 Elmwood. New fused congregation will use 1073 as the merged congregation site].
- “Court Approves Synagogue Merger,” Buffalo Evening News, September 26, 1957. [Beth Israel founded 1924, Congregation Beth Abraham, founded 1910, new merged congregation will have 200 members].
- “Social to Aid Cancer Research,” Buffalo Courier Express, January 2, 1961, p. 26.
- “Congregation Beth Abraham restores historic sign,” Buffalo Jewish Review, June 15, 2012
Congregation Beth Abraham, Merged Memorial Board of Congregation Beth Abraham and Temple Beth Israel
Member names of Congregation Beth Abraham and Temple Beth Israel were intertwined for much of their respective histories and are listed here from the memorial boards:
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Congregation Beth Abraham is seeking help with its history. Please contact the synagogue or visit their website.
Our thanks to the Foundation for Jewish Philanthropies for permission to reproduce images of Congregation Beth Abraham taken in 2017 as part of a documentation project carried out by the Jewish Buffalo Archives Project.