Memory Lane: Secrets of the 105-year-old Cornerstone
It is a corner of Boro Park that residents would have passed by thousands of times, and is located in one of the busiest intersections in our shtetl—but it is doubtful that many pay attention to the cornerstone in First Congregation Anshei Sfard of Boro Park. Even less are aware of the secret behind the cornerstone laid here more than one hundred and five years ago.
But an article in the Yiddishes Taggeblatt from the year 1915 sheds light on the unique, perplexing design of this stone. On the top line is etched in Yiddish Ershte Congregation. But that’s when things got complicated…
As the article, entitled Agav Urcha, Az es geit, geit ess, explains: “The Zionists are succeeding from all sides.” In Boro Park they are now building a chassidishe Shul (any nusach sfard shul, for Eastern European Jews, could have been called a chassidishe shul). The stone sculptor etched in the corner Anshei Sfard, with an Aleph (this would have been the Yiddish spelling for the word Sfard, whereas the Hebrew spelling would be without a vowel).
When they caught the mistake, the sculptor said that the mistake can be corrected in the following way: upon the words Anshei Sfard, he can “weave in” dates, pomegranates, grapes, and other fruits from Eretz Yisroel, and beneath that, a “new Anshei Sfard.”
The work was successful, and the chassidishe chevrah turned Zionist (in the assessment of that writer; because they spelled Sfard in Hebrew).
And the rest is history.
For the ensuing century, passersby probably assumed that this design was an intentional feature in the stone. Only now we know the story behind that unique cornerstone in one of Boro Park’s most venerated historic Shuls… as we continue our stroll down memory lane.
Memory Lane is a special project of Boropark24.com, and focuses on the history of our Boro Park shtetl. Comments and suggestions may be emailed to [email protected]