Where to find Harlem's old synagogues

Updated: Dec 29, 2020

Today Harlem 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?

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 Neboh Baptist Church, Mount Olivet Baptist Church and Baptist Temple Church, are all former synagogues: Congregation Ansche Chesed, Temple Israel and Congregation Ohab Zedek, respectively.

And if you know where to look, small architectural details point to these churches' pasts.

Some of the most visible include the tiny Stars of David decorating the columns of Mt. Olivet Baptist Church at 201 Lenox Avenue and Baptist Temple Church at 18 West 116th Street (now covered in scaffolding and set for demolition).

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

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#history #architecture #Harlem #synagogues

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