ALBANY, New York:
By: G. Herbert Cone
Capital of the state of New York and of Albany county, situated on the west bank of the Hudson river. As early as 1661, when Albany was but a small trading post, a Jewish trader, named
But the promiscuous trading of Asser Levy has little or no connection with the settling of a Jewish community at Albany. For the foundation of a Jewish settlement there one must look to much more recent times. During the early years of the nineteenth century a number of German Jews, principally from Bavaria, settled there; but it was not before 1838 that the Congregation Beth-El was organized (March 25), having its meeting-place first in Bassett and afterward in Herkimer street. The congregation had no rabbi regularly officiating at its services until the fall of 1846, when the Rev. Isaac M. Wise, then just entering upon his career, was gladly welcomed to the place. He remained at Albany eight years, during which time he introduced many reforms in the service of the synagogue. These reforms, and the frank utterances in his sermons in defense of them, produced such violent opposition on the part of some of the members of the congregation, that at the end of the fourth year of his incumbency the opposition had grown very bitter, even to personal violence, and caused a division in the congregation. The adherents of Dr. Wise organized the Congregation Anshe Emeth onOctober 11, 1850, and, having seventy-seven members, appointed him its rabbi. This congregation purchased a piece of property on South Pearl street, formerly used as a church, and converted it into a synagogue. Dr. Wise continued here until April 19, 1854, when he accepted the position of rabbi of the B'ne Yeshurun Congregation at Cincinnati, O. It was during his last year at Albany that Wise published the first volume of "The History of the Israelitish Nation from Abraham to the Present Time, Derived from the Original Sources." He was succeeded by the Rev. Elkan Cohn, who remained until 1862, and was followed by Dr. Myer. In 1864 the Rev. Max Schlesinger succeeded the latter. With Dr. Schlesinger as its rabbi the Anshe Emeth Congregation continued until 1885, when it consolidated with that of Beth-El, the united congregation being named the Beth-Emeth. This merging of the two congregations necessitating a larger place of worship, a handsome synagogue, costing $145,000, was built at the corner of Lancaster and Swan streets, and it was dedicated on May 24, 1889.
The members of the old Beth-El Congregation who would not follow Dr. Wise, nor adopt the reforms advocated by him, remained in Herkimer street until 1865, when they built a synagogue at the corner of South Ferry and Franklin streets. There they continued until 1885, when they joined with the Anshe Emeth Congregation as stated above. During that time their religious services were conducted by Revs. S. Falk, Gotthold, H. Birkenthal, Son, and Friedman.Eleemosynary Institutions.
The principal charitable societies of the Jewish community of Albany are: The Hebrew Benevolent Society, a general charity, organized September 20, 1855, and incorporated April 5, 1869; two ḥebrot, or societies—one for men and the other for women —being mutual aid associations, giving aid in cases of sickness and death; the Ladies' Sewing Society—also a general charity; the Jewish Home, having a permanent fund, and caring mainly for the aged poor by paying their board in families whose circumstances are such that they also need aid, thus helping both; the Albany Branch of the Alliance Israélite Universelle, established in 1865; the local branch of the Council of Jewish Women, which raised a fund to be devoted to defraying the expenses of establishing and maintaining a school for the education and training of children.
Although in the Jewish community of Albany merchants predominate, a great many persons are engaged in the manufacture of anilin dyes, potash, and clothing. In the legal and medical professions the Jewish community of Albany has had many distinguished representatives. Joseph Lewi practised medicine for many years in the city, and exerted a wide influence in the community. The population of Albany (1900) is about 100,000, of which upward of 4,000 are Jews.