The second city in New York state. Its first connection with the history of the Jews occurred in 1825, when Mordecai M. Noah laid the corner-stone of his projected city of Ararat in one of its churches.
Though a flourishing city of over 15,000 inhabitants, Buffalo in 1835 contained but one Jew, named Flersheim, from Frankfort-on-the-Main; he gave private instruction in German.
The earliest Jewish arrivals were German, and one Englishman. The first attempt at a religious organization was the holding of the Passover services, in the spring of 1847, in Concert Hall, on the south-west corner of Main and Swan streets. On Oct. 3, in the same year, the Jacobsohn Society was organized; it disbanded five years later. The society purchased a piece of land for burial purposes on Fillmore avenue, which has been unused since 1861.First Congregation, Beth-El.
In 1847 the first congregation, Beth-El, was established, under the presidency of Mark Moritz, and had as its reader the Rev. Isaac M. Slatky. Services were held for more than two years on the third floor of the Hoyt Building, at the corner of Main and Eagle streets. In 1850 this congregation bought a schoolhouse on Pearl street, near Eagle, which it converted into a synagogue, and dedicated July 22 of the same year. In 1874 this congregation, which uses the Polish liturgy, built its own synagogue, which it still occupies.New Temple.
The German element in Buffalo organized in Nov., 1850, the Beth Zion congregation, which found great difficulty in maintaining itself, but continued to exist until 1864, when it merged into the newly established Reform congregation. In 1863 a number of Jews requested the Rev. Isaac M. Wise of Cincinnati to send them a minister to conduct the services of the New-Year and the Day of Atonement according to the Reformed liturgy. These services were held in Kremlin Hall. The following year, at a meeting held (Oct. 9) in Kremlin Hall, at which Leopold Kaiser presided, the congregation Temple Beth Zion was organized. A year after its organization the congregation purchased for its place of worship a Methodist church in Niagara street. This building was dedicated May 25, 1865, and the Rev. I. N. Cohn was elected minister. He was succeeded in 1866 by the Rev. Samson Falk, who continued his ministration until his death, Dec. 24, 1886The congregation called as his successor Rabbi Israel Aaron, D. D., then at Fort Wayne, Ind., who was installed May 1, 1887. During his incumbency a new and more commodious temple was erected on Delaware avenue.
The influence of this congregation in promoting fellowship among the religious bodies of Buffalo has been very great. Upon the walls of the temple are tablets recording the sentiments of Episcopalians and Baptists. Its minister has been invited to preach in most of the principal churches of the city.
The educational and social-settlement work of the congregation is managed by the Sisterhood of Zion, founded in April, 1891, by Dr. I. Aaron. This body of women owns, free of debt, Zion House, a busy center in the heart of that section of the city inhabited by Russian Jews.Russian Jews at Buffalo.
There is a large colony of Russian Jews in Buffalo, who own five synagogues. Among their rabbis have been several Hebrew scholars and writers of note; e.g., Rev. Harry Singer, author of "Sefer Zikkaron basefer," published in Wilna.
There are a number of benevolent societies in Buffalo, but the chief work is under the efficient supervision of the Hebrew Board of Charities, which represents several organizations, and receives into its treasury nearly all funds for the relief of the poor.
Buffalo is associated with Rochester and Syracuse in the support of the Jewish Orphan Asylum of western New York, situated at Rochester.
The Union of American Hebrew Congregations held its second council in Buffalo in 1875, at which it was finally determined to open a Hebrew Union College. In 1900 the Central Conference of American Rabbis met in Buffalo.
The present (1902) Jewish population is estimated at 7,000. Among the Jews of Buffalo who have held public positions are R. Wolfsohn, United States consul at Mannheim; Hon. Louis W. Marcus, judge of the surrogate court; and Simon Fleischmann, president of the common council.