B'nai Jeshurun Synagogue - New York City
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Congregation B'nai Jeshurun
(Independent Jewish)

257 West 88th Street
New York, N.Y. 10025
http://www.bj.org/

Organ Specifications:
257 West 88th near Broadway (since 1918)
• II/11 Austin Organ Company, Op. 1623 (1928) – Auditorium
III/32 Austin Organ Company, Op. 1244 (1925) – Sanctuary
46 Madison Avenue at 65th Street (1885-1918)
• III/40 George Jardine & Son (1884)
West 34th Street and Sixth Avenue (1865-1885)
• II/25 J.H. & C.S. Odell, Op. 68 (1868)
Greene Street (1851-1865)
• unknown, if any
119 Elm Street (1827-1851)
• unknown, if any

Congregation B'nai Jeshurun (Sons of Righteousness) was founded in 1825 by a coalition of young members of Congregation Shearith Israel and immigrants and the descendants of immigrants from the German and Polish lands. B'nai Jeshurun was the second synagogue founded in New York and is the third oldest Ashkenazi synagoguein the United States. It was the stated intention to follow the "German and Polish minhag (rite)." The order of prayers followed that of the Ashkenazi Great Synagogue of London and sought the guidance of the British chief Rabbi Solomon Hirschell on matters of ritual. In 1827, the congregation dedicated its first building on Elm Street, the former First Colored Presbyterian Church. In 1828, at a time of rapid growth in the New York Jewish community, a group left B'nai Jeshurun to found Ansche Chesed. The first rabbi, Samuel Isaacs, was appointed in 1839. By 1850, the congregation had outgrown its building and in 1851 erected a new Gothic-style synagogue, designed by Field & Correja, on Greene Street.

In 1865, the congregation moved further uptown, leasing a plot of land on 34th Street, between Broadway and Seventh Avenue. Field & Correja were again hired to design the new synagogue, this time employing a vaguely Romanesque style with Spanish and Moorish influences. The 75-by-98 foot building provided seating for 650 persons.

B'nai Jeshurun Synagogue (1885) - New York City (NYHS Collection)  
Madison Ave. & 65th St. (1885-1918)  

When the 20-year lease expired in May 1884, the congregation acquired property on the southwest corner of Madison Avenue and 65th Street for a new synagogue. The old building on 34th Street was taken down and the stone and brick used to build the new synagogue. As designed by Rafael Guastavino, working with Schwarzmann & Buchman, the synagogue was modeled after the first synagogue erected in Europe, at Toledo, Spain, and was in the Spanish Renaissance style. The Madison Avenue façade, built of Philadelphia brick and stone, was Byzantine with a Moorish portico at the main entrance. Above the entrance was a tower and cupola that rose to a height of 104 feet. The completed synagogue had a seating capacity of 1000 and was dedicated on March 25, 1885.

  Dome - B'nai Jeshurun Synagogue - New York City (1918, MCNY Collection)
 
Sanctuary Dome (1918)
  Sanctuary - B'nai Jeshurun Synagogue - New York City (1918, MCNY Collection)
 
Sanctuary Interior (1918)
  B'nai Jeshurun Synagogue - New York City (photo: Cosler Theatre Design, 1996)
 
Sanctuary Interior (1996)

The present synagogue, located on West 88th Street between Broadway and West End Avenue, was dedicated on May 12, 1918. It was designed by Henry B. Herts, a congregant and celebrated theater architect, with Walter S. Schneider. In addition to its place on the National Register of Historic Places, the synagogue was included in the New York City Riverside Drive–West End Historic District created in 1990.

The muqarna-studded ceiling was redesigned following its collapse during renovations in the early 1990s and was replaced with a future-invoking space frame back-lit to simulate a nighttime sky.

Community House - B'nai Jeshurun Synagogue (1885) - New York City (Wurts Bros., 1928, MCNY Collection)  
Community House (1928)  

B'nai Jeshurun took a leading role in founding the Board of Directors of American Israelites in 1859 and the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in 1886. When the Board of Delegates merged with the (Reform) Union of American Hebrew Congregations in 1878, the congregation went along, but in 1884 it left the Reform Movement to join the United Synagogue of America, now the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. In 1889, the congregation published its own edition of the prayer book. In the 1990s the congregation left the Conservative movement and is now independent.

             
  Austin Organ, Op. 1623 (1928) in B'nai Jeshurun Synagogue - New York City (photo: Wurts Bros., 1928, MCNY Collection)
Community House Auditorium

Austin Organ Company
Hartford, Conn. – Opus 1623 (1928)
Electro-pneumatic action
2 manuals, 11 stops


Specifications of this organ have not yet been located. The status of this organ is unknown.
             
  Austin Organ, Op. 1244 (1925) in B'nai Jeshurun Synagogue - New York City (photo: Wurts Bros., 1926, MCNY Collection)
  Bima and Organ (1926)
Sanctuary

Austin Organ Company
Hartford, Conn. – Opus 1244 (1925)
Electro-pneumatic action
3 manuals, 44 registers, 32 stops, 32 ranks



In 1925, the Austin Organ Company of Hartford, Conn., installed a three-manual organ in the Sanctuary of the synagogue. The pipes and mechanism of the organ were located behind an elaborately stenciled pipe façade in the musicians' gallery above the Bima. On the left side of the chamber were the Great and Choir divisions, and on the right was the Swell division; the lone Pedal rank lined the north wall of the chamber. The Echo organ was located in the southwest corner of the rear gallery. Over the years the organ was damaged and pipes were stolen, rendering it unusable. At some point an electronic instrument was installed.
               
Great Organ (Manual II) – 61 notes, partially enclosed with Choir
16
  Bourdon (wood) *
73
8
  Dulciana
73
8
  First Diapason *
73
4
  Octave
73
8
  Second Diapason
73
4
  Flute d'Amour
73
8
  Major Flute (wood) *
73
8
  Tuba Harmonic
73
8
  Clarabella (wood)
73
  Harp
CH
8
  Viola
73
   
* unenclosed above Great/Choir box

     

     
Swell Organ (Manual III) – 61 notes, enclosed
16
  Bourdon (wood)
73
2
  Flautina
61
8
  Diapason Phonon
73
1 3/5
  Tierce
61
8
  Rohr Flute (wood)
73
16
  Contra Fagotto
85
8
  Viole d'Orchestre
73
8
  Cornopean
73
8
  Viole Celeste (TC)
61
8
  Oboe (fr. Con. Fagotto)
8
  Aeoline
73
8
  Vox Humana **
61
4
  Flauto Traverso (wood)
73
  Tremolo
2 2/3
  Nazard
61
 
** in separate swell box
               
Choir Organ (Manual I) – 61 notes, enclosed with Great
8
  Open Diapason (2nd O.D.)
GT
2
  Piccolo
61
8
  Clarabella
GT
8
  Clarinet
73
8
  Flute Celeste (wood) (TC)
61
8
  Cor Anglais
73
8
  Dulciana
GT
  Tremolo
4
  Flute d'Amour
GT
 
Harp
61 bars
               
Echo Organ (floating) – 61 notes, enclosed (located in southwest corner of rear gallery)
8
  Viole Aetheria
73
8
  Vox Humana
61
8
  Unda Maris (TC)
61
  Tremolo
8
  Gedeckt (wood)
73
   

     

     
Pedal Organ – 32 notes
32
  Resultant
8
  Great Flute (ext. O. Diap.)
16
  Open Diapason (wood)
44
8
  Dolce Flute (Bourdon)
GT
16
  Bourdon
GT
8
  Cello (Viola)
GT
16
  Dolce Bourdon
SW
16
  Tuba Profunda (ext. GT)
12
               
  Rafael Guastavino's Longitudinal Section of Organ and Altar in B'nai Jeshurun Synagogue - New York City (The Decorator and Furnisher, Oct. 1885)
  Guastavino's Longitudinal Section of Organ & Altar
Organ in synagogue located at 746 Madison Avenue at 65th Street:

George Jardine & Son
New York City (1884)
Mechanical action
3 manuals, 40 stops


THE MUSICAL COURIER, Vol IX, no 3 July 16, 1884: "Jardine & Son have received the order for a large organ for the Cathedral of Queretaro, Mexico; also a large three-manual organ for the new Jewish temple in Madison Avenue."

THE MUSICAL COURIER, Vol X, no 17, Apr 29, 1885 '.......(G.J.&S) have just completed one of their finest organs in the city for the new Jewish Temple, on Madison Avenue, corner of 65th Street; it has three manuals and 40 stops, some of which are quite new in this country, among which are the Corno Anglais, 16ft tone, saxophone, vox humana, a chime of 32 bells and mechanical appliances giving the organist instantaneous control over its varied effects. Mr. Jardine, being an organist, can appreciate the difficulties of registration, and contrive appliances to facilitate the labors of his "brother chips." '

Specifications of this organ have not yet been located.
             
Organ in synagogue located at 34th Street & Sixth Avenue:

J.H. & C.S. Odell
New York City – Opus 68 (1868)
Mechanical action
2 manuals, 25 stops


This organ was originally built by J.H. & C.S. Odell in 1868 for the synagogue located at West 34th Street and Sixth Avenue. Specifications of this organ have not yet been located.
               
Sources:
     "Building a New Synagogue," The New York Times (Mar. 21, 1884).
     "Dedicating a Synagogue," The New York Times (Mar. 26, 1885).
     Dunlap, David. From Abyssinian to Zion: A Guide to Manhattan's Houses of Worship. New York: Columbia University Press, 2004.
     Glück, Sebastian. Stoplist of Austin Organ Co. organ, Op. 1244 (1925).
     "Many Jewish Dedications," The New York Times (May 13, 1918).
     Musical Courier (July 16, 1884). Item about George Jardine & Son organ. Courtesy Larry Trupiano.
     Stern, Robert A.M., Thomas Mellins, and David Fishman. New York 1880: Architecture and Urbanism in the Gilded Age. New York City: The Monacelli Press, 1999.
     Wikipedia.com. B'nai Jeshurun. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B'nai_Jeshurun_(Manhattan,_New_York)

Illustrations:
     Cosler Theatre Design web site: www.cosler.com. Interior of present Sanctuary (1996).
     The Decorator and Furnisher (Oct. 1885). Longitudinal section of organ and altar. Courtesy Jim Lewis.
     Museum of the City of New York Collection. Dome (1918), Sanctuary Interior (1918).
     New-York Historical Society Collection. Exterior of Madison Avenue Synagogue (undated).
     Wikipedia.com. Exterior of present Synagogue.
     Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.). Bima and Organ (1926).