Astoria Center of Israel
27-35 Crescent Street
Astoria (Queens), New York
The Astoria Center of Israel (1925–26) is a historic synagogue located in the Astoria, Queens neighborhood of New York City, listed on both the New York State and the National Registers of Historic Places.
Astoria Center of Israel is an egalitarian synagogue that maintains a conservative Jewish tradition and is built around a warm, wonderful group of people that embraces a wide variety of perspectives on Judaism in a joyful and inclusive community.
The Astoria Center was designed by architect Louis Allen Abramson as one of the earliest synagogues in Queens. The building features a brick façade, two-stories tall, and five-bays wide. The trim is cast-stone, and features double-height Ionic piers flanking round-arched windows. The piers support an entablature and are topped by a balustrade. Its round-arched entrance is topped with a cartouche within which is inscribed a Star of David.
Among the synagogue's features is a set of murals by French artist Louis Pierre Rigal added a few years after the building was completed.
The “roots” of The Astoria Center of Israel can actually be traced back to what some of us consider as our parent shul, the former Congregation Mishkan Israel. Mishkan Israel, whose building was erected in 1906, stood next to our shul from the time of our building inception in 1925—until a fire destroyed the Mishkan building in the 1980s. Records exist that can trace the beginnings of what became Congregation Mishkan Israel to the 1880s. So in a sense, we can say that the ACI has had a Jewish presence here in Astoria since before the turn of the twentieth century.
In 1921, influenced by their Ladies Aid Society (the predecessor of our current Ladies Guild) the women of whom, from even that time, were the major motivating force for Jewish education and culture in the neighborhood (In their own words, they wanted to “Implant in our children, a love and reverence for our noble tradition”) the members of Congregation Mishkan Israel decided to build a new Talmud-Torah to meet the needs of a burgeoning Jewish population in the area. This was the original purpose for which our beautiful building came to be built.
By 1926, under the leadership of a young rabbi by the name of Joshua Goldberg, (who, later went on to become the first Jewish chaplain of the US Navy and who had a long and distinguished career in military chaplaincy) the need for a new larger synagogue and Jewish center had become apparent. The “Charter Members” decided to embark upon this direction. By 1929, the ACI had become a fully operational “Center” of Jewish life in Queens.
Throughout the years, and under the leadership (both clergy and lay) of many devoted and creative people, ACI became and remains the dynamic Jewish spiritual, social, cultural, educational home to a multitude of people. Many still keep in contact with us from all over the world. We have always had excellent relations with other communal organizations in the area and have been a welcoming forum for civic events in Western Queens.
Despite the dramatic population shifts that have seriously affected the ability of Jewish and communal organizations to prosper, our “Center”, strengthened by the vision of our forebears, still strives and maintains the level of Jewish life and communal service that affected so many who have passed through our portals. We continue to keep up the noble traditions that were imbued in us so many years ago. As we look forward, and welcome new people into our midst, we are inspired by the quotation that our founders inscribed on our charter: "Behold how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity".
On November 15, 2009 Astoria Center of Israel proudly marked the synagogue being added to the National and State Registers of Historic Places with a program that included live music and addresses by congregation leaders, previous rabbis, and local and national politicians.
Astoria Times Article
For more information, please see synagogue website at astoriacenter.org