"This was more than a house of worship. This was the portal of a new life in a new land for the largest wave of immigrants ever."

Bill Moyers


Running the Congregation


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Learn more about running the congregation:

Seat contract

Ink on paper
12.5 x 7.75 inches (folded)

This blank seat contract is from 1887, the year of the synagogue’s opening. To raise funds, as well as to prevent arguments, the right to sit in numbered seats in the synagogue was sold to congregants, with the more expensive seats located closer to the ark and the less expensive seats towards the back. While records show that seat number one was sold to businessman Isidor Abrahams for $1,100, the average seat price was 10 dollars, and could be paid in monthly installments. The contract is written in flowery, legal English and is organized in numbered sections, ending with the stated purpose of maintaining “peace and order” in the synagogue. Decorum was important to this aspiring congregation.

In return for their payment, congregants were entitled to certain expectations: they would be entitled to get their seat money back twice over if men and women were caught sitting together or if there ever was a mixed-sex choir singing in the synagogue. This provision of the contract is testament to the congregation’s attempt to maintain Orthodoxy in the face of liberal Reform congregations that were active elsewhere in the city.

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