Why this Blog Exists

To make the case for expanding the Park Slope Historic District

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Park Slope Jewish Center - Part 4

The third historic South Brooklyn congregation from which the present-day Park Slope Jewish Center evolved (after Tifereth Israel and B'nai Jacob) was B'nai Sholaum. PSJC's current history exhibit, "Building on a Strong Foundation," tells us:

B'nai Sholaum began between 1875 and 1886 (sources disagree about this fact) as a Reform congregation, but later took a Conservative path. This was an active congregation, with "modern" ideas, including mixed gender seating. Helen Hadassah Levinthal, the first woman to finish a course of Rabbinical Studies, preached from the pulpit on the High Holidays in 1939. In 1943, it dedicated a Sabbath to "Interfaith Amity and Goodwill." A Unitarian minister gave a speech entitled "Can the Gulf be Bridged?"

By the early 1900s, B'nai Sholaum had two schools, a Sabbath School with 200 students and a Daily School with 25. By 1921, it had 560 contributing members.

In 1897 B'nai Sholaum built the first synagogue in South Brooklyn, at 329 Ninth Street:

Congregation B'nai Sholaum, 1897-1914
329 9th Street
Photo: Brooklyn Public Library

Various local and state politicians attended the cornerstone-laying ceremony. The last mayor of Brooklyn, Frederick Wurster, even donated $100 to the building fund. The congregation choir provided entertainment.

In 1915, the congregation sold 329 9th Street to make way for a movie theater:

(Former) RKO Prospect Theater
Replaced B'nai Sholaum, 1914

They moved a block away and erected a "modern home of worship." The new building, which cost $50,000, had an organ and seating for 800:

Congregation B'nai Sholaum, 1915-1960
Hedman & Schoen, architects - 1913-1915
Photo: Brooklyn Public Library

The first merger discussions with B'nai Jacob Tifereth Israel were held in 1948 (motivated by declining membership?). By 1960, when they finally merged, B'nai Sholaum had 80 members. The building became an American Legion post.

The 1960 merger of Congregation B'nai Sholaum into Congregation B'nai Jacob Tifereth Israel created the present-day Park Slope Jewish Center; we'll conclude the story in a subsequent post.

401 9th Street, 2010

Axel Hedman and Eugene Schoen were the principals of Hedman & Schoen, architects of B'nai Sholaum at 401 9th Street. Axel Hedman was active elsewhere in Park Slope and is the subject of recent articles at the Brooklyn Public Library (1, 2) and on Brownstoner (1, 2).

Hedman & Schoen's building appears to have lost a small projecting cupola over the main entrance, and the two handsome lamps on either side of the steps. The hedges are gone. The neighbors have put away their awnings.
Otherwise, the view across 9th Street looks much the same today as it did nearly 100 years ago.

1 comment:

Eric McClure said...

I can safely say that I'd never noticed the top two stories of the building that houses Steve's C-Town. Amazing how one's focus is so much on street level.

It's also interesting how the buildings on either side of the Park Slope Jewish Center -- and nearly all buildings in Park Slope -- no longer have awnings. Imagine the savings in air conditioning costs if the awnings were still up.