American Jewish Tercentenary Opened with Synagogue Service in N.Y.
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American Jewish Tercentenary Opened with Synagogue Service in N.Y.

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Led by a reconsecration service at the oldest synagogue in New York, which was greeted by President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Israel’s President Itzhak Ben Zvi, celebration of the American Jewish Tercentenary got under way today. In many states, and in 250 cities in the United States alone, and elsehwere around the world, civic, religious and other organizations marked the opening of the observance, marking the Jewish community’s 300 years of participation in America’s growth and development.

The formal opening of the celebration on the national level took place here this afternoon at Congregation Shearith Israel, the Spanish-Porguese Synagogue which traces its existence directly to the first group of 23 Jews who settled in what is now New York, in the year 1654. The reconsecration service at Shearith Israel was broadcast coast-tocoast over a national network.

It is to the Shearith Israel service to which President Eisenhower addressed today’s message. He telegraphed:

“I send my warm greetings to all members of the Congregation Shearith Israel as you celebrate the Tercentenary of your synagogue. On this occasion you recognize with veneration the sacred belief and inspired deeds which have helped preserve your congregation from its difficult beginning through 300 years and which have led to striking accomplishments in social and community service. May you, on this anniversary, renew with ardor your faith in the religious principles which give men strength to do good work, and which, in turn, intensify the meaning of religious principles by bringing them alive into personal experience.”


As President Eisenhower’s message was received, word came here from the summer White House at Denver that the President has accepted an invitation to attend a Tercentenary dinner in New York on October 20.

President Ben Zvi, in his message, noted the role American Jews have played in providing aid to European Jewry and to the State of Israel, and continued: “American Jews can be proud of their glorious past and of the outstanding achievements of their sons in the new land in the fields of economics, industry, labor, science, literature and the arts – especially since the great immigration expanded their numbers from hundreds of thousands to millions in recent generations.”

(In Jerusalem, President Ben Zvi delivered an address over the Israeli radio’s national network tonight, in honor of the American Jewish Tercentenary. Rabbis throughout Israel will preach special sermons next week-end in observance of the American Jewish Tercentenary.)

Representatives of famous Jewish communities in other parts of the world came here to attend the special services at Shearith Israel, which were conducted by that synagogue’s spiritual leader, Rabbi David de Sola Pool. The visitors included: Rabbi S. Rodrigues Pereira, who heads the Sephardic Community of Amsterdam, Holland; Rabbi Bueno de Mesquita, of Surinam, Dutch West Indies; and Captain William Sebag Montefiore, representing the Sephardic Congregation of London.

Representing the overall Tercentenary committee of Three Hundred, which has been planning the observance for more than two years, was the Tercentenary chairman, Ralph E. Samuel. At the services at Shearith Israel messages were received from many Jewish spiritual leaders throughout the world, including: Chief Rabbi Israel Brodie, of Great Britain; and Rabbi J. Tal, Chief Rabbi of the Ashkenazic Jewish Community of Amsterdam.

Virtually every organized Jewish group in the United States–on all levels, national, regional and local–has scheduled a large variety of events forming part of the Tercentenary observance, which will last until next May 29.

The National Jewish Welfare Board announced that its lecture bureau has made special Tercentenary plans which include the scheduling of speakers in many communities, and aid to local Jewish centers, YMHA’s and YWHA’s in the planning of mass programs, pageants, meetings, rallies, book review presentations, adult institutes and other events. The Jewish Book Council, also sponsored by JWB, has prepared a special Tercentenary exhibit, titled “300 Years of Jewish Literature in America.”

A Tercentenary statement was issued today by the Jewish Labor Committee, representing more than 500, 000 Jewish workers in AFL and CIO unions. Adolph Held, chairman of the Jewish Labor Committee, announced that a special television program dramatically depicting the role played by Jewish labor in the building of America will be broadcast on September 26. Later this Fall, Mr. Held said, a special edition of the Jewish Encyclopedia will be issued in Yiddish and English giving, in historic perspective, a report on the contributions of Jewish labor in helping build the American labor movement as a whole and the American Jewish community in particular.

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