Mill Street Synagogue

Commemoration Project

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The Reverend Gershom Mendes Seixas

(1745-1816) 

Founding of New York City's First Synagogue

The Lower Manhattan Historical Association, in conjunction with the American Sephardi Federation, the Temple of Universal Judaism, the Sons of the Revolution in the State of New York and the Jewish Learning Experience and other interested community parties, is leading a community project to commemorate the founding of New York City’s (and North America’s) first temple. In 1730 the nascent Jewish community of New York City constructed the Mill Street Synagogue at what today is 26 South William Street. The Congregation Shearith Israel has long since moved has moved to the Upper West Side of Manhattan. While the history of the Jewish communities in New York and its most dedicated and influential Hazzan, Gershom Mendes Seixas, is well documented no plaque exists to identify this historic location. It is, therefore, our intention to remedy this omission and, in doing so, raise the community’s awareness regarding the important contribution of Seixas and his congregation to the rise of New York as that most cosmopolitan of American cities as well as the rise of America’s Jewish community.

Gershom Mendes Seixas 

Hazzan of Congregation Sheairth Israel

In 1766, as the spirit of liberty was growing stronger in the Colonies, Gershom Mendes Seixas became the Hazzan of Congregation Shearith Israel; which until the 1820s was the only Jewish congregation in the city. Although not formally an ordained a rabbi, Seixas served as the religious and spiritual leader of New York City’s Jewish community for the next 50 years. In doing so, he helped set the tone for how the Jewish community was to integrate into and become part of American society.

Jewish Patriots of the American Revolutionary War

During the American Revolutionary War of Independence Gershom Mendes Seixas proved himself to be an ardent supporter of the Patriot cause, leading his historic Spanish and Portuguese congregation in its removal to Philadelphia when the British captured New York in 1776. There, he helped establish Congregation Mikveh Israel. In the aftermath of the British relinquishing New York City to General George Washington on Evacuation Day (November 25, 1783), Seixas and his Congregation returned to their City. Thereupon, Seixas resumed his leadership of the Synagogue confirming and building upon his role as a seminal figure for the City’s Jewish community and as a citizen of the new Republic.

Mill Street Synagogue Gershom Mendes Seixas Way

On March 27th 2018 the LMHA secured the approval of Manhattan Community Board No. 1 for the renaming the section of South William Street between Mill Lane and Broad Street as "Mill Street Synagogue/Seixas Way.” With the enthusiastic support of Council Member for the 1st District Margaret S. Chin, the New York City Council formally approved the proposal on December 20th 2018 and submitted the “Local Law” to the Mayor for his signature. The LMHA is pleased to announce that the formal street co-naming ceremony will be held on Monday April 8 at 12:30 PM at the Northeast corner of South William and Broad Streets. A reception will follow in the Zabriskie Room of the Fraunces Tavern Museum at 1:30 PM. Additional information regarding the reception will be available to confirmed invitees.

Ceremony Invitation

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Supporting Organizations

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Reference Links

Manhattan’s Mill Street Synagogue: A Short History

by James S. Kaplan, Esq.​

President of the Lower of Manhattan Historical Association

The New York History Blog: December 24, 2018​


Columbia Trustee, Jewish Leader and Patriot of the American Revolution

Columbia News / Columbia University in the City of New York: February 17, 2017


Jewish Patriots and Patrons of the American Revolution

By Sarah Booth Conroy

The Washington Post: December 7, 1980


History of Congregation Shearith Israel

The Spanish & Portuguese Synagogue

America's First Jewish Congregation


Congregation Shearith Israel Cemetery / Chatham Square Cemetery

55 Saint James Place New York, NY 10038


Gershom Mendes Seixas (1745 - 1816)

Jewish Virtual Library


Unlocking a key to the Sephardic diaspora… in Stratford

By Cindy Mindell

CT Jewish Ledger: May 20 2015


A Sephardic Thanksgiving: ‘Uniting the whole community’

By Ty Alhadeff, The UW Stroum Center for Jewish Studies

The Sephardi World Weekly: November 24th, 2016


The First New York Jews

Twenty-three refugees from Brazil established the first Jewish community in the future U.S.

By MJL

My Jewish Learning





© 2017 Lower Manhattan Historical Association