Congregation Mickve Israel
20 East Gordon Street
Savannah, Chatham County, Georgia
Congregation Mickve Israel in Savannah, Georgia, is one of the oldest synagogues in the United States, as it was organized in 1735 by mostly Sephardic Jewish immigrants of Spanish-Portuguese extraction from London who arrived in the new colony in 1733.
They consecrated their current synagogue, located on Monterey Square in historic Savannah, in 1878. It is a rare example of a Gothic-style synagogue.
Mickve Israel maintained its Portuguese traditions from its inception. It maintained this minhag in the face of the rising influence in the 19th century of Reform Judaism in the United States. It began to shift by adding a choir accompanied by musical instruments and eliminating observance of the second day of festivals starting on February 11, 1868. Rabbi Isaac P. Mendes recommended a gradual shift in changes in synagogue practice during his 27 years leading the congregation, which started in 1877. The requirement to use a chuppah at wedding ceremonies was eliminated in 1880, and the obligation to wear a head covering was removed in 1894.
The congregation used a modified Portuguese traditional siddur until 1895, when the synagogue published a prayer book of its own.
With the growth in Savannah's Jewish population, the congregation outgrew its structure. It planned for a new building, laying the cornerstone for what its current structure on March 1, 1876.
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