Our History

Set in the picturesque Society Hill neighborhood, Congregation Kesher Israel stands as a premier example of the quintessential American synagogue. The structure is found in one of the most historic areas of the Country, in the heart of almost one thousand original 18th century homes. Built as the Universalist Church in 1796 and converted into an immigrant Eastern European synagogue in 1889, this historic house of prayer has seen history march past and through its doors.

John Adams, when he was Vice President of the United States, sat on its rough-hewn benches. In the fall of 1897, the first large Zionist meeting in the United States was called here just weeks after Theodor Herzl had convened the First Zionist Congress in Basle Switzerland.

For the next decade, Kesher Israel was a central meeting hall for early Zionists in Philadelphia – and throughout the world.

In more recent years, the synagogue has undergone a renaissance. In 1998, the building was proudly re-dedicated by a new generation of Jews who hold dear those values that were so meaningful to generations of long ago. Very recently, new refurbishments were added to the beauty of the sanctuary.

We welcome you to Congregation Kesher Israel. We hope that you will find within our walls, a sense of holiness, a sense of community, a warm, welcoming congregation and the joy of finding a spiritual home.

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