B’nai Adath Kol Beth Yisrael, Inc. was founded in 1954 by the late Rabbi Yirmeyahu Ben Daniel Ben Levi Ben Yisrael. He was the student of the late Chief Rabbi Wentworth A. Matthew, the founder of our community.
In the beginning the congregation was located in Harlem on Lenox Avenue. Two years later the congregation moved to Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn and was located at 131 Patchen Avenue. Within ten years the congregation needed to move as they had outgrown this space as well. In 1967 the congregation moved to its current location; 1006 Greene Avenue, Brooklyn, New York. This area known as Bedford Stuyvesant, was at one time predominated by main stream Jewry, which afforded the congregation the opportunity to purchase a temple that was vacated by its Ashkenazi orthodox predecessors; a congregation named, B’nai Jacob Joseph. From its inception, the synagogue has been a place of worship for the broader Jewish community and it has maintained its original purpose since it has become a beacon of pride to the Israelite community. This congregation has been for many years, close to if not more than one hundred years, a place of service to the Bedford Stuyvesant community.
The Israelite community has grown by leaps and bounds since its founding in 1919. As the knowledge of Torah, its purity and truth increased so did the size, and the varying locations of the people of the community. There were three congregations in the Manhattan area in the early to mid 1900’s; however the community in Brooklyn was continuing to grow. The founders of B’nai Adath desired to continue the teachings of Torah, and their leader, Rabbi Matthew and his student Rabbi Yisrael who had been partnered with a fellow colleague, Rabbi McCloud in his first congregation in Harlem.
Over the congregation’s 50 years of history, it has had thousands of members and constant parishioners. B’nai Adath Kol Beth Yisrael, also boast of being the parent congregation to many other congregations such as Hashabah Yisrael of Brooklyn, New York which in turn was parent to Hashabah Yisrael in Guyana, South America, Hashabah Yisrael in Baltimore, Maryland, Kwahal B’nai Yisrael, Brooklyn, New York, Kwahalet Mishpachah, Atlanta Georgia, She’ar Yashuv, Atlanta Georgia, and most recently, Hashabah Yisrael Hebrew Family of Charlotte, North Carolina. Other congregations whose founders are products of B’nai Adath include such places as Kol Sheareit B’nai Yisrael, Bronx, New York, and most recently Kalutzeh Yisrael, Bronx NY. Along with the birth of the new congregations, B’nai Adath also gave rise to some of the most predominate leaders of our community. Adon Rabbi Knaizadek Ben Zadok Ben Levi Ben Yeshurun, here mentioned first as he along with his brother-in-law, the late Rabbi Amasiah Ben Azriel Ben Yehudah succeeded Rabbi Yirmeyahu, the founder of the congregation in 1984. Both these men had been staunch members of the congregation for over twenty years, and attended the Israelite Rabbinical Academy, founded by the Late Chief Rabbi W. A. Matthews. Rabbi Yeshurun has continued his leadership of the congregation, and has moved to Atlanta, Georgia to start an extension of the congregation in that area. B’nai Adath also gave birth to one of the prominent figures in our community, Adon Cohen Levi Ben Yisrael, the founder of Hashabah Yisrael and the current Supervising Priest of B’nai Adath, his place of origin. There have been many under Cohen Levi’s tutelage and constant instruction for example; Cohen Michael Ben Levi of Hashabah of South America, Adon Moreh Meshael of Kwahal B’nai Yisrael of Brooklyn, New York, and Moreh Eleazar Ben Yehudah of She’ar Yashuv in Atlanta, Georgia, to name a few. Another prominent figure that rose from the ranks of B’nai Adath was the late Moreh Yosef Ben Ephraim, founder of Kol Sheareit B’nai Yisrael, still located in Bronx, New York.
B’nai Adath has been a forerunner in the area of outreach and inter-congregational cooperation, in and outside the Israelite community. The congregation is very proud to be the site of major events in the community. In the early 1970’s, B’nai Adath was the site where the International Israelite Board of Rabbi’s, and the Israelite Rabbinical Academy was reformulated after the death of the Late Chief Rabbi W.A. Mathews, in 1973. As time went on the congregation became famous for its Unity Shabbats, in the late 1980’s, in which congregations from all over the country came to worship together. These Unity Shabbats lead to greater conquest in the Israelite community, like the formation of the Ancient Israelites United, Inc., an organization designed to focus resources to better meet the needs of the community. B’nai Adath provided resources and free work space to the newly formed organization as a means to foster its operations. B’nai Adath continues to provide assistance to the Israelite community by allowing the Israelite Academy, (formerly the Israelite Rabbinical Academy), to use its building as a site for its Brooklyn campus.
B’nai Adath does not limit its service to the Israelite community. As a part of our outreach, we have for many years provided the neighborhood a free soup-kitchen. The soup-kitchen served about 30 persons daily for about 10 years. However, recently the soup kitchen participants increased to about 100 persons daily. Unfortunately, the increased participation, as well as exorbitant utility bills has caused us to temporarily postpone the service we have provided for many years to the community at large. We also provided counseling and family services to the Israelite community as well as the community at-large.
Our building is very large. The building seats approximately 1500 persons. Complete with two multi-stall bathrooms, as well as a single stall visitors bathroom. The temple is equipped with a commercial size kitchen complete with five ovens, with multiple ranges. The ballroom which seats approximately 500 persons also has a large room as an offshoot that has been used as a classroom. The yard of the temple accommodates large gatherings and religious functions for the times we have community feasts, and is also used for the community Succoth. Another feature of the building is its quarters for the caretaker of the congregation. Although a great blessing, the burden and responsibility of the congregation is great.
We are a community on the move. Our congregation is once again seeing an increase in its population, however the money needed to maintain the utilities and regular maintenance does not allow for the upkeep of our outreach programs.
With great resolve, this generation of B’nai Adath Kol Beth Yisrael, has sworn to maintain the great legacy, and history of this congregation. However, we will not be satisfied with simple maintenance; it is time for the next step in our evolution. We have begun to build on the works of our fathers and predecessors. We have joined forces with Israelites, Hebrews, and Jews from all over the world by participating in the organization called B’chol Lashon, a subsidiary of The Institute for Jewish and Community Research in San Francisco, California, to better relations within the community and abroad. We have started a weekly newsletter to bolster communications and to give informative items to our members. We have reorganized our internal structure to better facilitate the civil and business methods of the congregation. Our future will only be garnered by the limitations of our imagination, and can be best described by the words of the late Chief Rabbi Levi Ben Levy:
“Contend not thyself with satisfaction, always strive for perfection. Mark the man of integrity and behold the upright, for the end of that man is peace”