Memory Lane: Shomrei Shabbos Anshei Nowogrod
In 1922, a group of men began davening at 1420 50th Street. They founded a society by the name of Shomrei Shabbos of Borough Park. The shul would remain there until its sale to the Klausenburger kehillah in 1968. In documents that we have perused, we learn that the secretary of Shomrei Shabbos of Borough Park was none other than Levi (Leopold) Horowitz, the president of the legendary Horowitz-Margareten Matzoh bakery—who resided at 1320 50th Street, precisely one block from the shul—as early as 1920.
Landsmanshaftn, associations of immigrants from the same shtetlach in Eastern Europe, were a common phenomenon at the turn of the century—they numbered in the thousands.
The shtetl of Nowogrod referred to here is a little hamlet outside Lomza. Landsleit came to America and formed a society named ‘Bnei Hashvotim Anshei Nowogrod’ in the year 1890, at 86 Forsyth Street on the Lower East Side. In 1928-29, talks were had about merging this society with the Shomrei Shabbos of Borough Park, and was finalized in the spring of 1929.
One of the primary reasons for this move was the influx of Jews to the upscale, beautiful neighborhood of Boro Park—away from the squalor of the tenements.
Included in the aforementioned list of sponsors from Rav Kumin’s sefer is Yaakov Zev Olshin. It turns out that he is fondly remembered as “Uncle Jack” to the Olshin family. His grandson, Neil Rothfeld, fondly recalls the wonderful days spent at the side of his zeide at the shtiebel.
One of his foremost memories of the shul is the frivolity on Simchas Torah, when they would tie the chazzan to a chair… and throw towels around. He also provided us with these beautiful images from one Hosha’ana Rabba around 1968. Reb Yaakov Zev remained in that area until 1969, when he moved to 18th Avenue, where he joined Cong. Bnei Yehuda until his passing.
Asked whether the name Silkowitz means anything to him, Neil Rothfeld says: “It means everything.” It seems that the Shul was actually more commonly known around Boro Park as “Silkowitz’s Shul.” This is how many children of that day remember it to this day. For good reason. Rev. Avrohom Yosef Silkowitz—from the Zelkovitch family of Lomza—became the Rabbi of the Shul in 1927, and dedicated himself completely to its well-being. He was likely a member of the Nowogrod Landmanshaft.
For about 1952-1963, the Shul had an official rov by the name of Rav Yechiel Michel Yoselefsky—a native of Novaradok, and a talmid of Kletzk. Rav Aharon Kotler, zt”l, his Rosh Yeshiva from Kletzk, and fellow Boro Park resident, would frequent the Shul.
In 1969, with the dwindling of its members, the changing of the neighborhood, and the passing of Rev. Silkowitz, 1450 50th Street was sold to Yeshivoth She’eris Hapleitah, concluding four-decade chapter in the history of Boro Park of yesteryear.