Mikveh Israel Congregation and Cemetery
Oldest Jewish congregation in Pennsylvania
Mikveh Israel worships in a building not far from its original 1782 redbrick structure on Cherry Street. Visitors can see representations of three of its synagogues in a tapestry that hangs in front of the sanctuary. Reminders of the congregation’s long history include a marble reader’s stand (tebah) from the congregation’s 1859 home, and two sets of Torah ornaments (Rimonim) made by colonial silversmith Myer Meyers.
The cemetery on 8th and Spruce Streets, part of Independence National Historical Park, includes the grave of Rebecca Gratz, reportedly the inspiration for the character Rebecca in Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe, and memorials to Haym Salomon, who helped finance the American Revolution.
Mikveh Israel traces its beginning to 1740, when Thomas Penn granted land to Nathan Levy for a burial ground for Levy’s infant son. There, Levy established a cemetery for the Jewish community. In 1782, Mikveh Israel’s first house of worship was completed with financial assistance from Benjamin Franklin and others. The synagogue has moved several times before returning to its original neighborhood in 1976 where it serves a vibrant congregation, faithful to its tradition.
Synagogue visiting hours: Open Sun – Fri (call for exact times)
Service times: Daily at 7:15 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. Fridays
at sunset and 9 a.m. on Saturdays
Cemetery: Tours by appointment
Mikveh Israel follows the Spanish-Portuguese (Sephardic) ritual introduced by Reverend Gershom Mendez Seixas, who, in 1780, came to serve as Hazzan (Congregational Leader) .
Phillip Moses Russell, surgeon’s mate to General Washington, is buried in Mikveh Israel’s cemetery.
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