The Arty Semite

Mourning Kehilath Jeshurun, and Hoping for Rebirth

By Jenna Weissman Joselit

  • Print
  • Share Share

Crossposted From Under the Fig Tree

Wiki Commons

In New York, change is the coin of the realm. Nothing remains intact or in one place for very long. Businesses come and go, neighborhoods rise and fall, synagogues and churches shutter their doors and move away.

But not Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun (or “KJ,” as it’s commonly called), a stalwart and true urban presence on East 85th Street since 1902.

A raging fire claimed the life of its dignified limestone and brick building last night, leaving me, along with thousands of New Yorkers, with an acute sense of loss.

While I’ve attended services on occasion, my relationship to KJ happens to be professional rather than personal. Years ago, I wrote a book about modern Orthodox Jewry in which the history of the congregation figures prominently. One of the book’s chapters, in fact, contains a description of the building’s cornerstone-laying ceremony, which took place 109 years ago.

Spirits ran high that day, the sources tell us, in what now makes for painful reading. There was a band and bunting and the usual complement of official dignitaries. A “vast concourse of Jewish citizens” also turned out to participate in the proceedings. Everyone on hand agreed that Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun was the “most modern and beautiful orthodox synagogue in New York.”

May it rise again.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: From Under the Fig Tree, Jenna Weissman Joselit, KJ, Kehilath Jeshurun

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.