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On May 12, 1954 the Brotherhood Synagogue (Congregation Beit Achim) was founded by Rabbi Irving J. Block, z”l with 25 men and women based on five cardinal principles:  a free pulpit, free pews, social service, community service and an active and innovative program of religious brotherhood (at that time, with the Village Presbyterian Church which housed The Brotherhood Synagogue for 20 years.)  

“What is a free pulpit?  It means the freedom of the rabbi to interpret the events of the present in light of God’s teachings, speaking the truth as he or she sees it, without censorship or restrictions from any source except one’s own judgement.  The rabbi speaks to, and not for, the congregation.

Free pews means that we do not own the pews in which we usually sit…. It is the right of every Jew to worship in a synagogue at all times, especially on the High Holy days, without being required to purchase a ‘ticket.’

Social service is our obligation to put forth a conscious effort to help others whenever and wherever necessary, limited only by the resources at our disposal.  The synagogue not only should be a sanctuary for prayer, but also should assist its members and their families with problems or direct them to community resources.  
Community service enjoins us to become involved in the affairs of the neighborhood in which we are located and to bring to bear the wisdom and insight of our Jewish heritage.”   

Excerpts are from A Rabbi and His Dream, Building the Brotherhood Synagogue, Rabbi Irving J. Block, 1999

And so began our journey to fill the needs of a modern mid-century American Jewry emphasizing the significance of the rich traditions of Judaism. 

Today, the Brotherhood Synagogue is one of the city’s most important and the largest downtown progressive synagogues. We are housed on Gramercy Park in a Quaker Meeting house built in 1859, a one-time stop on the pre-Civil War underground railroad. We are grateful for all those who have given their time, energy and support over the years enabling us to become who we are and reach this birthday milestone. 

We encourage you to read more about our History and Mission and Vision.

Happy 70th Birthday Brotherhood Synagogue!

Rabbi Block and his colleague The Rev Dr. Jesse William Stitt in front of their joint sanctuary.

70th Anniversary Activities

Throughout the year, we are celebrating our past and our future through various activities. We welcome you to join us! 

Friday night Speaker Series: We are excited to welcome members to speak to us about their experiences at Brotherhood.

  • February 6: Judge Laura Ward, a member of Brotherhood since our inception in 1954, spoke about the founding of the synagogue and its early years. Laura was our first Bat Mitzvah and a has served on our Board of Trustees. Her grandfather was an early trustee, followed by her father. 
  • March 1: Phil Rothman, Executive Director Emeritus, reflected on his early years and experiences at Brotherhood Synagogue, including the expansion of the Hebrew School and the development of iconic Brotherhood programs such as the Homeless Shelter and the Tivkah Program.
  • April 5: Bob Wolf will talk about his initial encounter with Brotherhood Synagogue, standing on the non-member Community Service line waiting to attend High Holiday services, and some of the wonderful things that happened at Brotherhood thereafter. Bob has served as President of the Synagogue from 2006 to 2009, and Chair of the Board of Trustees. He has served on the Board since the mid-1990s.
  • May 3:  Sara Rothman will speak about growing up at Brotherhood and participating in Brotherhood’s many childhood programs. She attended our first Shabbat Corner class with Basya Shechter and, eventually, became the class assistant every Saturday morning. Sara also attended Aleph Bet Club, Junior Congregation, and even attended Hebrew School after her Bat Mitzvah. She will share more about her time in these programs and growing up with the Brotherhood community. 
  • June 14: Mark Goldfinger --- need info 
  • Coming Summer / Fall 2024 –Ilse Hoffman, Morissa-Falk Freedman, Charlie Rich

If you would like to donate in their honor, you can do that here. If you would like to sponsor an oneg in their honor, please connect with Alisha Goodman, Executive Director of Brotherhood. 

70th Anniversary Celebration, Friday May 10:  A salute to all of our volunteers over the years, with a special thank you to our past presidents.  A video of the Shabbat service honoring them is available here

November 2024, Rabbi Irving J. Block Memorial Lecture: Our guest speaker will be Rabbi Block’s son, Herbert Block. Herbert grew up at Brotherhood, and currently serves as the Executive Director of the American Zionist Movement.

The Sefer Torah Project: We are commissioning the writing of a new Torah and there will be several opportunities throughout the year for our members to perform the mitzvah of writing a letter. Thank you to all who have donated to bring a new Torah to Brotherhood! Read more about the project here.

Brotherhood Oral History: Two of our long-term members, Alba and Michael Dwass, are interviewing members about the importance of Brotherhood in people’s lives. Alba and Michael – thank you for volunteering to work on this project.  

For further information, feel free to contact the Co-heads of Brotherhood’s 70th Anniversary Committee, Debra M. Aaron and Susan L.  Halper


Sat, May 18 2024 10 Iyyar 5784