Congregation Mikveh Israel
The Spanish – Portuguese Synagogue, also known as The Synagogue of the American Revolution, is the oldest congregation in Philadelphia.
Kahal Kadosh Mikveh Israel, “The Hope of Israel”, is the oldest Jewish congregation in the city of Philadelphia, and the second oldest congregation in the United States. The precursor to the congregation’s formation was Nathan Levy’s 1740 application to Thomas Penn, Proprietor of Pennsylvania, for a land grant to consecrate a Jewish burial ground. At that time the only other Jewish congregation in the United States was Kahal Kadosh Shearith Israel in New York City, which had been formed by Sephardic Jews who were descendants of Spanish and Portuguese refugees of the Inquisition. Many of the founding members of Mikveh Israel of Philadelphia were also Sephardic so it was agreed to adopt the Spanish and Portuguese customs and rite. To the present time the service and customs remain largely unchanged.
Mikveh Israel is often called “The Synagogue of the Revolution” because many of its early members were very active in the activities that led to the Revolutionary War as well as serving in it. In the early years of our new Republic members of Mikveh Israel were in regular contact with Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Adams, and the other leaders who wrote the constitution and were instrumental in the formation of our country. In 1782 the Congregation purchased a lot on Cherry Alley and built its first synagogue. It is now in its 5th synagogue building which is very close to the original Cherry Alley site. In 1971, the congregation moved to Independence Mall, close to its original site, together with the National Museum of American Jewish History. The building opened on July 4,1976, the Nation's Bicentennial.
The new building was dedicated on September 12th, 1976 just two months after the Nation’s July 4th Bicentennial. Prayer services are held every morning, as well as every Friday evening, Saturday morning, Saturday afternoon, Saturday evening, and all holidays and special occasions. Despite having Spanish & Portuguese roots, the community today welcomes Sephardic Jews of all backgrounds, including Turkey, Greece, Egypt, Morocco, as well as Ashkenazim