Where to find Harlem's old synagogues


Bethel Way of the Cross Church of Christ was originally Congregation Shaare Zedek synagogue.

Harlem today is justly famous for its Baptist churches, home to countless famous sermons and soul-stirring gospel.


But during the heyday of Jewish Harlem—from about 1870 to 1930 when it was the third largest Jewish settlement in the world—the neighborhood was brimming with synagogues.

So where are they now?


Mt. Olivet Baptist Church was once Temple Israel.

Most—about a dozen—are actually hidden in plain sight. Harlem's synagogues quickly changed hands after the Jewish population moved out of the neighborhood in the 1920s, transforming into churches.

Today's houses of worship—including Mount Olivet Baptist Church (201 Lenox Ave) and Bethel Way of the Cross Church of Christ (25 W 118th St), both featured here—are former synagogues: Temple Israel and Congregation Shaare Zedek, respectively.


And if you know where to look, small architectural details point to their past.


Stars of David atop the columns of Mt. Olivet Baptist Church.

Distinct Stars of David decorate the columns of Mt. Olivet Baptist Church as well as the stained glass windows of the Bethel Way of the Cross Church of Christ, a Moorish Revival beauty.

Check out this comprehensive list of prominent Harlem churches that were once synagogues, then set off on your own historical tour.


Stars of David decorate the stained glass windows of Bethel Way of the Cross Church of Christ.

But don't wait too long: Baptist Temple Church, once Temple Israel, has been demolished since this post first ran.


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#history #architecture #Harlem #synagogues

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