Kesher Israel Synagogue

Kesher Israel Synagogue. Image provided by Temple University Urban Archives

412-418 Lombard St.

The building currently occupied by the Kesher Synagogue was originally built in 1793 as the Universalist First Independent Church of Christ. As a Universalist church, it hosted lecturers like Unitarian theologian and scientist Joseph Priestley and Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism. By the 1870s the building had fallen into disuse. After requesting that the bodies from the Universalist burial ground be moved elsewhere, the congregation Chevra B'nai Jacob purchased the building in 1889. Its early membership consisted primarily of Russian Jews who were later joined by other Eastern European Jewish immigrants. It has remained a synagogue ever since and was a central meeting place for the early Zionist movement in the late 1890s. The building now includes schoolrooms and a women's gallery. The Romanesque/Colonial Revival Pompeian entrance, designed by J. Franklin Stuckert, was added in 1896. Kesher Israel was renovated and rededicated in 1998.

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