Congregation Adath Jeshurun, "The Congregation of the Upright," was founded on the fourth day of Sukkot, 1858. The original minutes were recorded in German and the Services were conducted in both German and Hebrew. In 1873 a choir was incorporated to enhance the beauty of the service and, in 1876, an organ was installed.
In 1910, Max D. Klein, a young rabbinic student at the Jewish Theological Seminary, became the spiritual leader of AJ. Through his leadership, he guided the congregation toward the Conservative Movement, making AJ a founding member of the United Synagogue of America.
Our Congregation, while steeped in history and tradition, continues to evolve through the changing needs of our members. We are an open and welcoming congregation. We recognize the diversity of Jewish Life and want all seekers to be able to find a place among us.
Our worship services are fully egalitarian and seek to respond to the modern intellectual, spiritual, and aesthetic needs of today's congregants. On Friday evening, there are two Shabbat services; the Kabbalat Shabbat Alive service and the Seder Avodah service. We also offer a Havurah-style service on Shabbat and holiday mornings, for those seeking a different type of worship experience from that of our main congregational service. Our sanctuary and building are accessible for people with disabilities.
We are pleased to offer various spiritual, educational, social action, and social opportunities. Our award-winning Preschool, Torah Academy, family and adult education, and youth programs are recognized both locally and nationally.
Adath Jeshurun's history has been, and continues to be, one of service to members, to the community, to the Conservative Movement, and to Judaism, all of which is made possible because of the caliber of its spiritual and lay leaders and the devotion and dedication of its congregants.
September 26, 1858: Adath Jeshurun is founded. Wolf Ettinger was made temporary chairman, and on October 3 Moses Blumenthal was made the first president. Rev. S. B. Breidenbach was selected to serve part-time as Cantor and Teacher for $75.00 per year.
1859: Union Hall at Third and Brown Streets was rented and dedicated.
1861: Land purchased at Bridge and Walker Streets for the Adath Jeshurun Cemetery, still operating at the same location.
1865: The building at the corner of Newmarket and Noble Streets was purchased (from KI) as the first building that AJ owned. At the annual meeting Dr. S. Nathans was selected as the first Rabbi. A permanent “chazzan” and “shamos” were also hired.
1875: AJ purchased the Juliana Street Synagogue from Rodeph Sholom, and at the annual meeting a merger with Adas Israel Congregation was approved.
1884: AJ holds a “Grand Fair” and raises $10,000 for a new building. The following year the Juliana Street Synagogue was sold.
1886: A piece of ground at Seventh Street and Columbia Avenue was purchased. Later that year construction was completed and the new Synagogue was dedicated just before High Holy Days.
1896: Services are now conducted only in Hebrew and English: German is removed.
1911: Building at Seventh and Columbia sold to Congregation Ohel Jacob while the building at Broad and Diamond was being constructed. On June 21st Max D. Klein was inducted as Rabbi, and Dr. Solomon Schechter, president of the Jewish Theological Seminary spoke in honor of the occasion. Rabbi Klein served until 1960.
1913: Delegates are sent to New York to represent AJ as a founding member of United Synagogue of America.
1926: AJ completed construction on a $100,000 building project which included a new Auditorium, new School Building, and a re-modeling of the sanctuary to increase seating.
1937: A feature article about Adath Jeshurun is printed in the Philadelphia Bulletin. According to the article AJ’s Religious School had 560 students and 18 paid teachers.
1948: Rabbi Klein delivered the invocation at ceremonies held in Reyburn Plaza in honor of the newly formed State of Israel. Israel’s flag was raised for the first time in Philadelphia. Later that year a property at the corner of York Road and Ainsley Avenue was purchased for use as a second Religious School site.
1951: Seder Avodah prayerbook for Sabbath, Festivals and Weekday compiled by Rabbi Klein is first used.
1957: AJ purchases property at 509 Ashbourne Road to serve the immediate needs of the school and congregational offices, as well as 10 _ acres at the corner of York and Ashbourne Roads as a site for construction of a new synagogue (land at the corner of 69th and York Roads, which had also been a potential site for construction, was later sold).
1960: Rabbi Klein retires and is named Rabbi Emeritus. As a parting gift to the congregation, he introduces the Seder Avodah for the High Holy Days. Rabbi Yaakov G. Rosenberg is named rabbi of the congregation.
1964: First High Holy Days services at the current building at the corner of York and Ashbourne Roads.
1966: Charles S. Davidson is named AJ’s Hazzan.
1978: Rabbi Rosenberg leaves to assume the position of Vice Chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. Seymour Rosenbloom is named rabbi of the congregation.
1983: AJ celebrates its 125th anniversary with the Sabbath Morning Service of Reconsecration.
1996: Work began on an extensive five year renovation of the main sacred spaces in the building. The Sanctuary was thoroughly renovated and dedicated in memory of Raymond Klein. The remarkable sculptures at the front and rear of the Sanctuary capture the prime theological themes of Creation (the Ark Doors by Albert Paley, dedicated by William and Sulamita Spiegel), Revelation and Redemption (the facing panels by Zigi Ben- Haim, dedicated by Miriam Klein and Stephen Klein). The Sanctuary Foyer was redesigned, rebuilt and newly dedicated in memory of Aaron A. Gold. The Chapel renovation was dedicated by Hank and Eleanor Strauss and incorporates elements that link the synagogue toits former site at Broadand Diamond Streets in Philadelphia.
2004: Hazzan Davidson is awarded Emeritus status after 38 years of service and honored by a year-long concert series. Howard K. Glantz is named the new Hazzan. At the annual meeting the congregation officially approves the merger with Oxford Circle Jewish Community Centre – Brith Israel which took effect on July 1, 2004. A new edition of the Seder Avodah High Holy Day Mahzor, edited and revised by Rabbi Seymour Rosenbloom, and dedicated in memory of Barbara B. Rubenstein, is introduced to the Congregation for the High Holy Days.
2008: AJ Celebrates its 150th Anniversary with a year-long program of events, including creation of a historical DVD, a symposium featuring several top scholars, relocation of the cornerstone from the first building AJ built at 7th and Columbia, a tour of the historic AJ Cemetery, a Gala Celebration, and a 150th Anniversary Sabbath Morning Service of Celebration and Renewal accompanied by choir and full orchestra. At that service a new edition of the Seder Avodah for Shabbat, Yom Tov, and Weekdays, was introduced, edited and revised by Rabbi Seymour Rosenbloom, and dedicated by Marvin N. and Mildred W. Demchick.
Many sources were consulted in the creation of this brief history. Particularly helpful were the address at the 89th Anniversary Dinner by Benjamin Buchsbaum, and the Dedication Book Congregation Adath Jeshurun: 1858- 1967, edited by Marvin Shore and Charlotte Viner Bernstein. We thank them for their work and apologize for any errors which may appear here.