Memory Lane: Congregation Tifereth Israel

Memory Lane: Congregation Tifereth Israel

Yehuda Alter

The following account is about a congregation that was begun one afternoon in the year 1907 by one individual who endeavored to build a house of prayer at this edge of Boro Park that borders Ocean Parkway. It is the part of town that can be called the ‘entrance’ of Boro Park… where those fleeing the squalor of the tenements for a better life presumably first landed.   

Throughout the ensuing century, it was the perseverance and the dedication of the members that have built—and maintained— two beautiful edifices in this neighborhood, both of which continue to serve this community’s spiritual needs. Today we take a snapshot of the last 113 years of history in this corner of Boro Park. 

Seeking his Brethren

The following account of the founding of this congregation comes from ‘History of Brooklyn Jewry’: During June, 1907, Harry Falk, soon after his settled in Kensington (as this area is called), went out to seek his brethren in that section. As he approached the spot now known as 18th Avenue and Gravesend Avenue, he noticed a venerable Jew seated in front of a small shanty that was used as a real estate office. After the usual greetings and a short discussion about the values of real estate, Falk began a conversation on the subject of Judaism in Kensington. 

“Do you have a minyan here at all?” asked Mr. Falk.

“No,” replied Mr. Rafflowich, who was one of the first Jews to settle in this part of Brooklyn. “We can never get enough Jews in this section for a minyan."

Mr. Falk then decided to get in touch with the few scattered Jews of Kensington and establish the first congregation. With the assistance of Mr. Rafflowich and Morris Haber, he assembled twelve Jews out of a total of thirty-three who resided in the vicinity, in the home of Morris Haber at 669 East Second Street… an election of officers was held and Mr. Rafflowich was elected to the presidency of Congregation of Kensington, as the new organization was called. 

“Public services were held at 205 Ditmas Aveune. The High Holy Day services were celebrated in December 1907 at Bleichner’s Hall on the corner of Cortelyou Road and East Fourth Street. The total worshippers at that time numbered forty. 

“Rapid progress was made, and in early 1911, the building of a synagogue at the corner of Ditmas Avenue and Dahill Road was begun… Harry Falk was the chairman of the building committee (this was later the home of Yeshivas Yavneh, which we have mentioned in these lines in the past, and continues to serve as the home of Yeshiva Zichron Meilech to this day). 

The first spiritual leader of the congregation was Rabbi Jacob Katz, who ministered to the little community from 1914-1920. He was succeeded n Rabbi Hyman Landau from 1920-1922. In September 1922, Rabbi Jacob Bosniak assumed his duties. In October 1922, the congregation acquired the adjoining building which was used as a school house... 

By this time, the congregation had one hundred members, two schools (presumably after-school Talmud Torah’s for boys and girls), and educating 175 pupils. Another building was then purchased on East 2nd Street, where the various auxiliaries of the shul would meet. 

Next Week’s article will focus on the grand new edifice that is today, Yeshiva Mevakshei Hashem. 

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