The congregation Shearith Israelâ€” the Spanish and Portugese Synagogueâ€”founded in 1655, two hundred and seventy-five years ago, last night celebrated the two hundredth anniversary of the consecration of its first house of worship. The present synagogue building has preserved in the entrance hall some of the mill stones rescued from the ruins of the old mill on Mill, now South William Street, where in 1730, the first building was erected.
Edgar J. Nathan, Jr., chairman of the Bicentenary Committee and a lineal descendant of Lewis Moses Gomez, president of the congregation in 1730, formally presented a bronze tablet which is to be put up at the site of the old synagogue, under the joint auspices of the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue and the American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society. Mrs. Cyrus L. Sulzberger, a descendant of Jacob Hays, a leading Jew in the early community, unveiled the tablet.
The main address of the evening was delivered by the Rev. Dr. Henry E. Cobb, pastor of the Collegiate Dutch Reformed Church, the oldest denomination in the city, founded in 1628. Messages of greeting were tendered by Max J. Kohler, vice-president of the American Jewish Historical Society, and by Dr. George Frederick Kunz, president of the American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society.
Many of the present members of the Spanish and Portugese Synagogue are descendants of the earliest settlers in America, who, as refugees from Spain and Portugal, founded this first Jewish congregation in America. The graves of these early settlers and the graves of their grandchildren who fought in the American Revolution, are still to be seen in the oldest Jewish burial ground in the city, on New Bowery, near Oliver Street, the property of the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue.