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Thursday Sept 3
Today is the fourteenth day of Elul!
On this exact day of Elul 291 years ago, on 14 Elul 5489 (September 8 1729) Jewish institutional life in continental North America began!  On this day, Congregation Shearith Israel laid a foundation stone in lower Manhattan for the first structure ever designed and built as a shul in this land. Although the congregation was founded in 1654 shortly after Jews arrived in the new world, they didn’t build a building of their own until 75 years later.  (Its current building on 70th street on the UWS was built in 1897).  Jews came to the New World and decided to maintain the traditions and heritage of their past.  The commitment of colonial Jews to Jewish life which has been well documented by historians of American Jewish History was not without its challenges.  There is evidence of intermarriage and other breeches in observance.  However, overwhelmingly, these brave Jews were loyal to Hashem’s Torah and the ways of their ancestors in an environment that was far less than ideal for the fulfillment of mitzvot with no rabbis, no yeshivot, almost no shochtim and possibly no Torah scroll (for the first years).  We are their heirs and, to me, they are an inspiration.  They are Jews we should think of as role models in these days of Elul as we work on our own commitments to Torah amidst challenging times.

Fri, September 18 2020 29 Elul 5780