More than a century and a half ago, a ragtag lot of Ashkinazic Jews gathered in the Rondout home of Alexander Adler and began holding Orthodox services. And so Congregation Emanuel was born.
It was a long time ago and the historical record is bit hazy, but it’s a safe bet these German Jews were merchants and peddlers, among the early Jewish traders who stopped in outposts from Newburgh to Troy, trading pelts along the Mohawk from Buffalo to Schenectady.
And while the city of Kingston has a long and proud history stretching back to colonial days, it’s important to note that the Jews of Congregation Emanuel played a significant part in that timeline.
In 1861, they purchased a Baptist Temple to worship in, joined the burgeoning Reform movement a few years later and by 1892 had a brand new home on Abeel Street. With the prosperity of the fifties and the new IBM offices in town the Board began an ambitious building project and in 1959 opened its mid-century icon on Albany Avenue, with metal-work by congregant and world-famous metalsmith Kurt Mazdorf.
By its 160th Anniversary, the Congregation had regained its profile as one of the leading communities of faith in the Hudson Valley, sponsoring speakers, holding political debates, championing social action, while being lead by its first female Rabbi, Yael Romer, and a Cantor, Bob Cohen, who began as a folkie and a Freedom Rider.