The Rich History of Congregation B'nai Israel
Over 80 years ago a group of 12 Jewish families living within the Grant City, New Dorp, and Richmond areas reached out to each other and conducted "communal" Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services. With a clear-minded sense of determination, they founded a synagogue that was to be established in Grant City. The synagogue was to be known from its inception as the South Shore Hebrew Alliance. It was granted a state charter as a bona fide religious organization on February 4, 1935.
As the Jewish community grew in number on the South Shore of Staten Island, the founders recognized a need for a permanent and proper house of worship to serve the needs of an expanding community. They bought land and erected a modest building on Bancroft Avenue and South Railroad Avenue.
By 1959, the membership in the synagogue grew to the point where a $20,000 expansion program was initiated. The expansion program included plans for a regular Hebrew and Sunday School program and curriculum. Rabbi Grumet was the Hebrew School teacher, and Tillie Fried taught the Sunday School.
In 1965, the property of the synagogue was condemned by the state to make way for major modifications for the Staten Island Rapid Transit System. Undaunted and united by a dedication to survive, the congregation spent three years wandering without a permanent shul. High Holiday services were conducted in an empty supermarket one year and within a tent on the grounds of our current property the following year.
In 1968, construction proceeded on the current synagogue structure. The new expanded facility with a sanctuary, social hall, catering kitchen, classrooms, and offices prepared the congregation for the current influx of new Jewish families to the South Shore of Staten Island.
Now, with over 80 families in our congregation with new needs and new aspirations for the future, the leadership is once again dreaming and planning for new growth and new directions.
Though the name of the synagogue changed in 1954 from the South Shore Hebrew Alliance to Congregation B'nai Israel, the great underlying strength and determination to survive and grow still fuels the eternal flame over our holy ark, as a light for the future, and a memorial to those who saw the light and made a vision come true.