6. Congregation Shearith Israel is the oldest Jewish congegration in the U.S.

Congregation Shearith Israel synagogue

The Upper West Side is home to one of the country’s largest Jewish communities, which developed when German Jews moved here prior to the turn of the 20th century. Between 85th and 100th Street is today considered the country’s largest community of young Modern Orthodox singles, and many of the restaurants in the neighborhood are Glatt Kosher. The neighborhood also features many historic synagogues; the first “Free Synagogue” branch called Stephen Wise Free Synagogue, New York’s second-oldest synagogue B’nai Jeshurun, and Congregation Shearith Israel, the oldest Jewish congregation in the United States.

Congregation Shearith Israel, often called the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue, was established in 1654 in New Amsterdam by Jews who immigrated from Dutch Brazil. It was the only Jewish congregation in New York City until 1825, when German Jews started to arrive. The congregation, now on Central Park West and 70th Street, could not build a synagogue until 1730 on Mill Street, which was located near a spring for mikveh ritual baths. In 1886, Rabbi Henry Pereira Mendes of the congregation founded the American Jewish Theological Seminary, where he later became president. In 1897, the congregation moved into its current Neoclassical building, and members have included poet Emma Lazarus and Supreme Court Justice Benjamin Cardozo.