Our links to the past are made tangible by our everyday use and display of ritual treasures and historic relics.
These bells adorned a Torah scroll at the consecration ceremony of the First Mill Street Synagogue, held on the Seventh Day of Passover in 1730. They are used each year at services on the Seventh Day of Passover in observance of the consecration anniversary.
These Rimonim, modeled after the American Liberty Bell, were commissioned by the Congregation in honor of the 70th birthday of Judge Edgar J. Nathan Jr. in 1961. Judge Nathan, a descendant of one of the oldest American Jewish families, was an active civic leader. The Rimonim highlight his deep roots and involvement in American life, together with his outstanding leadership in Shearith Israel and the larger Jewish community.
Synagogue tradition associates this Hanukkah lamp with the First Mill Street Synagogue of 1730. It is made of beaten brass and is in the style of Hanukkiyot made in Holland toward the end of the 17th or early 18th centuries.
In 1776, the British forces took possession of New York City. Many of Shearith Israel’s congregants fled the city, with a significant number of the men joining the military of the American patriots. Several British soldiers desecrated two of Shearith Israel’s Torah scrolls; the Congregation maintains these scrolls as historical memorials of the Revolutionary War period. The soldiers who desecrated the Torah scrolls were severely punished by the British military authorities.
September 12, 1954
In celebration of Shearith Israel’s 300th anniversary in 1954, the synagogue’s Sisterhood issued commemorative plates designed by our member Esther Oppenheim. Five of the plates depict our five synagogue buildings—the Mill Street Synagogue of 1730; the Second Mill Street Synagogue of 1818; the Crosby Street Synagogue of 1834; the 19th Street Synagogue of 1860; and our current building on 70th Street and Central Park West, dedicated in 1897. Another plate depicts the historic Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island. The Touro Synagogue, dedicated in 1763, is the oldest standing synagogue building in the United States, and is owned by Shearith Israel. The final plate depicts Shearith Israel’s historic seal, adopted in 1797.
Shearith Israel has two “’Omer Boards” which pre-date the Mill Street Synagogue of 1730. They are used in the synagogue to count the seven weeks between Passover and Shabuot. This based on Leviticus 23:15, which instructs us to count 50 days from the offering of the new barley sacrifice on Passover until the holiday of Shabuot when the new wheat was offered. The measurement of the offering was called an “’Omer” and from this unit of measurement comes the name used for this seven week period. The letters H, S, D found on the boards stand for the Homer (H is an archaic way of transliterating the Hebrew letter ‘ayin), S for Semana (weeks), and Dia (days.) The boards have been used annually for nearly 300 hundred years.