THE BEGINNING OF ADAS YESHURUN SYNAGOGUE
by Jack Steinberg
From around 1880 until nearly 1910, many Jewish people emigrated to Augusta from Eastern Europe. Most of those who came to Augusta came from the city of Kobren, which was then in Russia or Poland, and was a part of the Russian “Pale”, the area in which the Czar had decreed that all Jews under his rule must live. They left the Czar’s oppression to find a new life in the United States, and after the first one came to Augusta, the others followed. Most of the men came first and then either returned to get their families or simply sent money for their families to join them in Augusta. At first, most of these emigrants made their living by peddling and from this they branched out to being merchants and then into every profession there is. One exception was the Tanenbaum family, living by farming so that they could properly observe the Sabbath.
These immigrants from Kobren were all Orthodox Jews, and they wished to be able to properly practice their religion. As soon as there was enough people to do so, five families formed a Minyan in 1889 which at that time was known as “Mr. Steinberg’s Minyan”. The five families were those of Jacob Edelstein, Morris Steinberg, Isadore Fromberg, Abram Shapiro, and J.M. Frank. This Minyan met over a drugstore at 10th and Broad Streets, which at the time was the residence of Morris Steinberg. This 1889 date is marked as the beginning of Adas Yeshurun Synagogue, which celebrated it’s 100th Anniversary in 1989.
Some in the community were dissatisfied with this Minyan, because it consisted of men whose businesses were open on the Sabbath, so another Minyan was formed which was called Keep Saturday Society. It met at 1216 Market Street and was started in 1890. In 1891, still another Minyan was formed by Jacob Edelstein, and it met on Walker Street. All three of the Minyans used the services of Mr. Poliakoff, who was a Shochet, and they all contributed to his salary.
Three Congregations were too much, so the three soon merged and by 1891, they applied for a corporate charter and held their services on Market Street. The Charter was granted on October 9, 1891 by Judge Rooney of the Superior Court of Richmond County, and was granted to Morris Steinberg, Bernard Holatsky, Morris Coffsky, Isadore Fromberg, S. Aaron Bulkovstein, Laser Steinberg, Benjamin Grunglos, Abram Shapiro, Sam Steinberg, Aaron Steinberg, Solomon Wigodsky, and Mandel Sawilowsky. They were incorporated under the name “Society AdashYeshurien.” The purposes of the corporation that were listed on the charter were “for mutual benefit and pleasure and to assist in charitable work.” Jacob Tanenbaum, great grandfather of Dr. Beryl Tanenbaum, was the first President of this newly chartered Synagogue.
In 1895, the Congregation bought a lot on 10th Street and under it’s new President, Aaron Tanenbaum, who was the son of the original President, it began to raise money for a Synagogue building. All sixty members pledged $10.00 each and with this pledge and a mortgage, a building was built with a Sanctuary on the main floor, and a Hebrew School and Bath of Purification in the basement. Other officers were J. Steinbach, Vice President; A. Baum, Secretary; D. Rones, Treasurer; and Morris Steinberg, A.M. Daitz, and B. Oletsky were the Trustees.
The records in the Superior Court, the State Court, and the Federal Court indicate that most of the members of the Congregation were not only involved in being Observant Jews, but that they also were most anxious to become good Americans at the same time. In looking through the records of the courts, we find that nearly every member applied for US Citizenship in just a few years. Many were sponsored by Jewish people from the Reform Community, and many were sponsored by members of Adas Yeshurun Synagogue who became citizens earlier.
In 1902, the Congregation split for awhile, with some of the members leaving and bringing in another Shochet and meeting in the 1100 Block of Reynolds Street. After a period of three or four years, they returned to the flock, and the two groups merged back together.
For awhile, the services of two Shochets were used. In 1909, Mrs. Henry Levkoff organized the Daughters of Israel, which was the Sisterhood of the Congregation and is today known as Adas Yeshurun Sisterhood. Charity was their prime purpose, and many a businessman got started with a grant or loan from this organization. The Sisterhood today remains a large and vibrant part of this Congregation and still has charity as its main goal.
The Congregation remained on Tenth Street for nearly twenty years, until it began to burst at the seams, and in 1914 a church building was purchased in the 1100 Block of Ellis Street. This beautiful building remained the home of the Congregation until 1954, when it moved to its present building on Johns Road. The Ellis Street Synagogue was made possible by donations from Aaron Silver, Jacob Sawilowsky, I. Sandler, Jacob Andrwosky, and by the purchase of the 10th Street property by Abram Pomerance. Members donated generously to the new Synagogue.
Until 1930, the meetings of the Congregation were conducted in Yiddish, and the minutes were all recorded in Yiddish. Not until that date, did the American born sons of the Kobren immigrants have the clout to get the language used in the meetings and minutes to English. Note: Much of the information here was derived from an article written by Dr. Beryl Tanenbaum for a booklet celebrating the 90th Anniversary of the Congregation.