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Our High Holiday Traditions

On Rosh Hashanah and Kippur, the sanctuary takes on a special aura of purity and holiness. The Reader’s Desk and Ark are draped in white. The Torah scrolls are dressed in white silk cloaks. The Myer Myers Rimonim, designed by a leading figure in 18th century congregational life, grace the Torah scroll from which the Torah is read on the first day of Rosh Hashanah.


The melodies which characterize the High Holy Day season are haunting in their beauty. While led by our Hazzan and choir, the entire congregation joins in the chanting of the prayers.


To highlight the solemnity of the High Holy Days, the Hazzan covers his head with his prayer shawl while officiating at services. He is flanked by two congregants, known as Seganim, who stand in support of the Hazzan.


For many years, Shearith Israel has provided a parallel service in the L. Napoleon Levy Auditorium. These services are less formal than services in the synagogue’s Main Sanctuary and include engaging explanations of the services.

Chatham Square Cemetery

The oldest of our extant cemeteries is known as the Chatham Square Cemetery.  It is located in Chinatown at 55 St. James Place.  The land was originally purchased in 1682 by Joseph Bueno de Mesquita. 

Hebrew School History

In 1802, Meir Polonies donated $900 to fund our Hebrew School