Cultural Heritage Tours

A project of the ETHNIC HERITAGE CENTER

Lower Dixwell Tour

Congregation Keser Israel

122 Foote Street

(demolished)

Congregation Keser Israel c. 1920. Courtesy Jewish Historical Society of Greater New Haven.

In 1909 a small group of Jewish families founded Temple Keser Israel at 122 Foote Street (near Goffe Street). In 1835, a wooden Greek Revival style building (there is a scale model of this early synagogue, built by the late Harry Mansfield in the archives of the Jewish Historical Society) had been built at the corner of Exchange and East Pearl Streets in Fair Haven for the Methodist Episcopal Church. When the church outgrew the building, it was sold in 1866 to the Varick AME Zion Church and the building was moved to Foote Street. When their new church was constructed in 1908 the building was sold to Congregation Keser Israel.

In 1945, Keser Israel joined the Conservative movement, and invited to the pulpit Rabbi Leon Spitz, a graduate of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. Three years later, the congregation purchased the Plymouth Church on the corner of Chapel Street and Sherman Avenue.

Congregation Beth El-Keser Israel (“BEKI”) was formed from the merger of Congregation Beth El (founded in 1892 as B’nai Israel) and Temple Keser Israel on March 31, 1968. The current BEKI synagogue is located at 85 Harrison Street, on the corner of Whalley Avenue, in the Westville neighborhood.

  • Text source courtesy Jews in New Haven Vol. IX, article by Alan Gelbert.

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