Founding the Synagogue
Jews began arriving in the
Rondout Valley in the early 1900's helped by
Jewish resettlement agencies with the
purpose of becoming farmers. By 1906,
the Hebrew Farmers Association of Kerhonkson
and Accord had 57 members. By 1910, the
Jewish Agricultural Society office in Ellenville
reports that in Kerhonkson, there is a
group of men who meet on Sabbath to pray.
Members take turns hosting the service
in their homes including the farmer Bluming,
the baker, Reiner, Sol Cohen from the
department store in town and the butcher
Speigal who hosted most often. The
Hebrew Aid Society lists the first minyon
as early as 1910 making us one of the oldest of
their farmer shuls in the area.. A deed dated November 10, 1921 shows the transfer of land from James Lundrigan to Louis Spiegel. This land was then donated by Becky and Louis Spiegel to the Society of the Beauty of Judea and Israel for the synagogue in September 10, 1923. Funds were raised among the .Jewish families for the building including Morris Sims, Abe Feinberg, Butch Rosenberg, Milt Makowsky, and Siminoff/Simonofsky(?). Most were religious and seeking a house of prayer, some were not but wanted a visible and permanent symbol of their growing Jewish community.
The founders faced great odds in establishing themselves here. Winters were harsh, soil thin and antisemitism was common.
Bluming describes the atmosphere as an ebb and flow. It
would be quiet and then there would be an incident. There were
active KKK groups in Kerhonkson and Ellenville in the 20's and
it was common for Christian establishments to clearly post " No Blacks, No Jews and No dogs."
In the autobiographical Jew Boy in Goy Town, Charles Bluming a young boy at the time describes in great detail life in the Jewish community in Kerhonkson. Among other events, he tells of the synagogue
coming along steadily in the winter of 1924 and the Farmer, Butch Rosenberg deciding to place a Magen David at the entry to identify it
as a shul. . That night, the star was torn down and left in pieces in the
street in front of the synagogue. Tensions came to a head as
Butch dared whoever did it to fight him. Jewish families slept
with 1 eye open especially after a suspicious fire at the Bluming's farm.
On Sunday, Mr. Bluming, a deeply pious man went to the church
to speak to his neighbors. Seeing the Blumings in church, Reverend Paxton invited Mr. Bluming to address his congregation,
According to the author, in the end, the Christian congregation helped in the completion of the synagogue and joined in the dedication service which we think was during Hanukkah . Together they said the Shehecheyanu and our synagogue was founded. Rabbi Hollander was hired to be the first rabbi.
For Bluming's description of the building of the synagogue click here
The little shul in Kerhonkson continued to grow adding a cemetery in 1925, the Augusta Kopp Talmud Torah and Community Center building in 1954. The congregation also built a Rabbi's residence. But times were changing, after the departure of the railroad and the summer resort businesses, Jewish population dwindled. Youth left for the city to seek jobs which were few in the Rondout Valley. Like many others, Tifereth Yehudah V'Yisrael became a part time congregation. The last full time Rabbi was Alice Stein ( 1999.) We currently are blessed to have Reb. Sally Shore Wittenberg as our spiritual leader and teacher.
On August 27, 2013, Our beautiful sanctuary was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Tifereth Yehudah V'Yisroel continues to be an independent and welcoming Jewish Community which meets in our historic building on holidays and the second Shabbat of the month .........and has a killer kiddish.