This exceptional drawing documents the first building of B’nai Jeshurun, the second congregation founded in New York and the third-oldest Ashkenazic congregation in the United States. B’nai Jeshurun was established in 1825 by a group of Ashkenazic members of the Sephardic Shearith Israel Congregation (the only synagogue in New York City at the time), who seceded following a dispute about the distribution of communal honors. This watercolor is based on a drawing by A. J. (Alexander Jackson) Davis (1803-1892) created in 1827, the year the members of B’nai Jeshurun moved into their building on the former Elm Street in Lower Manhattan. Services were held there until 1850 when the congregation had grown large enough to make it necessary to build a new synagogue on nearby Greene Street. Early in his career, Davis made drawings of public buildings for reproduction in popular engraved views, as seen in the accompanying lithograph in this lot, which also includes a depiction of the B’nai Jeshurun synagogue.
Leland M. Roth, American Architecture: A History (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2001), 5-8.
Israel Goldstein, A Century of Judaism in New York: B’nai Jeshurun, 1825-1925, New York’s Oldest Ashkenazic Congregation (New York: Congregation B’nai Jeshurun, 1930).