History of  Chevra Tifereth Israel Anshei, Greenport

(Much of this material was published in 1992, in recognition of the 90th anniversary of Congregation Tifereth Israel.  Material is also included from the 1978 celebration of the 75th Anniversary.  Original materials from 1902 through 1914 have also been consulted.)

The Beginnings

The mid-to late 1800s forged America’s melting pot,” welcoming immigrants from Ireland, Germany, Italy, Poland, Lithuania and Russia.  Beginning in the 1800s, over two million of these hopeful pilgrims were Jews from Eastern Europe.  Most remained in the cities, where the bright colors of the American Dream often faded under grinding gray poverty.  Some were determined to find a better way.  Many headed west; a few came east, to rural Long Island.

Those first hardy souls struck out along the roads and railroad tracks of the island peddling such items as needles and thread, ribbons and combs. Eventually they found a spot to their liking and settled down. One of these places was Greenport.  There is no record of exactly when the first Jewish immigrants came to the village, but it is known several families lived here before 1880.  The heads of the households: Nathan Kaplan, G. Merzbach, Morris Appelt, Herman Sandman, William Smith and Louis Jaeger. Apparently there were no organized services — no congregation, no synagogue, no home services.

 Between 1880 and 1890 several more Jewish families arrived in Greenport and went into various business ventures. When that trend continued into the century’s last decade, the time was right for area Jews to begin gathering for worship.

Congregation Organized

The first service was held during the High Holy Days of 1892 in the home of Lazar Kobre.  Later, regular services were held in the home of Fanny Levine. In 1900, a small group of men assembled in the home of Nathan Goldin to organize the Jewish families of Greenport into a formal congregation.  Samuel Levine, in a history of the first 50 years of Temple Tifereth Israel, wrote,”… their assets were mainly faith, as they were certainly poor in worldly possessions.”

Records indicate the following were present at that first meeting:  Joseph Pushkin, Morris Levin, Isaac Kaplan, Abraham Kaplan, Joseph Brown, Nathan Goldin, Samuel Bluemthal, Jacob A. Schless, Samuel Levine, Michael Ballan and Zelig Beck. Abraham Kaplan chaired the meeting. The group decided on the name Tifereth Israel Anshaei Greenport and the following officers were elected: Joseph Pushkin, President; Morris Levin, Vice President; Nathan Goldin, Treasurer; Jacob A. Schless, Secretary; Joseph Brown, First Trustee; Samuel Blumenthal, Second Trustee; Samuel Levine, Third Trustee; and Michael Ballen, Fourth Trustee.   Dues were set at $6.00 per year payable by Yom Kippur.
At another meeting the following Sunday. Zelig Kaplan, Benjamin Ballen, Julius Levine and I. Keller were accepted as members.

At the first men’s meeting held October 5, 1902, a committee was appointed to obtain a charter and an official stamp (seal) .  Fine speeches were given by the president and Schochet.

Building the Shul

The groundwork laid, the new congregation started on the task of building the Temple.  Minutes of the congregation’s second meeting say that the “committee that was appointed to select a site reported that there is a lot on fourth street, 50′ X 150′ and that the asking price is $200.00, but (they) will try to get it a little cheaper.”   Finally, a different site – where the Temple stands today – was selected.  The parcel was purchased from J. Madison Wells for $300.00.

In his history, Mr. Levine writes that the congregation watched the synagogue take shape “with mingled pride and inner trembling.  It was no easy matter for a mere handful of people to finance so ambitious an undertaking.  But what they lacked in numbers and ready cash, they made up in enthusiasm and zeal.” Jewish families in the area unanimously supported and contributed to the construction project.


Through the efforts of a fund raising committee — Joseph Pushkin, Fannie Schless, Jeannie Levine, Jacob A. Schless, Ida Brown, Sarah Schless and Golde Pushkin — the cornerstone of the building was laid December 28, 1903.  Rabbi Dr. Spiegel of New York conducted the formal dedication of the Temple on January 11, 1904.

The original building contained the sanctuary with a balcony for women congregants, a small kitchen, a mikva* in the basement and a Cheder (Classroom).

*The Mikva , a Jewish communal bath for washing away ritual impurity by immersion, is now covered by the 2000-2001 reconstruction of the bathroom facilities, but relics were salvaged and are now on display in the lobby area.

Woman’s Auxiliary

In January 1909, a total of fourteen members formed Temple Tifereth Israel’s new women’s auxiliary at a meeting in the home of Anna Goldin.  The group was formed to organize social events and generally aid the synagogue.  Calling themselves the Ladies Aid Society of Greenport, the members set dues of 10 cents a meeting. (5 cents for unmarried women.) Later the group changed its name to The Hebrew Club, but by 1934 the club had disbanded.

Sylvia Bloch Levine and Ida Kaplan came along in February, 1938 to bring new life — and a new name — to the ladies’ auxiliary. The Daughters of Israel met in the rear of the synagogue over the now-closed Mikva.  Over the years, the organization has sent countless checks to the needy; among the charities the members have supported are the United Jewish Appeal, the Braille Institute and the Red Mogen David.  They regularly donated thousands of dollars to the congregation itself. To fund their activities, members held raffles, card parties, cake sales and rummage sales.
The Daughters of Israel were active in fundraising for the Temple’s 1964 addition of the Social Hall.  The latter has been the site of numerous cocktail parties, Chinese auctions, costume parties and other functions.  During High Holy Days the services are held in the Social Hall.

1964 Addition

As part of the 1964 renovation, the kitchen was enlarged and a reception room added.

In 1968, the congregation purchased the house across street as living quarters for the Rabbi and his family.

2000-2001 Expansion

In 2000–2001, Congregation Tifereth Israel completed an extension to the south side of the social hall to provide classroom space for the Hebrew School, modern washrooms, an office and additional worship space for the High Holy Days. The dedication of this new facility was held on July 8th 2001.