The New York Historical Synagogues Map is an ongoing digital mapping project designed to recreate the religious sphere of Jewish life in New York City in the early decades of the 20th century (1900-1939). Although initially conceived primarily as a research tool for genealogists seeking to identify the synagogues their ancestors attended, historians, sociologists, and others may also find it valuable in examining demographic changes in New York City over this period. The interactive map was built by geographically tagging synagogues listed in national and local historical directories (see “Sources” below for more information). In the future, we hope to expand the map so that it also may function as a portal to New York City synagogue research, connecting users to the archival repositories in which historical synagogue records are maintained. Until then, if you wish to learn about how to locate synagogue records, please consult our research guide at libguides.cjh.org/genealogyguides/us_synagogues/finding_records.
Beginning with a map of Manhattan, the project’s ultimate goal is to encompass all five boroughs. The geo-tagged synagogues are overlaid on two Manhattan map layers, one from 1911 and the other 2015. This feature allows users to view the synagogues in the context of the city’s physical landscape at the time that they were active, as well as in today’s setting. To learn how to switch back and forth between the 1911 and 2015 map layers, please visit How to Use.
The 1911 layer is a digital composite of the Atlas of the city of New York, borough of Manhattan: From actual surveys and official plans by George W. and Walter S. Bromley (1911) from the collections of the New York Public Library’s Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division. This entire atlas was digitized and its individual plates were digitally stitched together into a single layer by the New York Public Library’s Digital Collections team (maps.nypl.org/warper/layers). The composite layer was then digitally rectified by anonymous volunteers using the Map Warper, an open source software developed by the New York Public Library and Topomancy LLC (mapwarper.net ). The 1911 Manhattan map layer was made freely available under a Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.
The 2015 Manhattan map layer data was created by Open Street Maps contributors (openstreetmap.org) and made freely available under an Open Data Commons Open Database License. Open Street Map’s standard “Mapnik” tiles were rendered and served by Mapbox (mapbox.com).
The following is a list of the sources from which the synagogue data was obtained, arranged chronologically by date of publication:
Adler, Cyrus, ed. American Jewish Year Book. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 5661 [1900/1901]. Print. [Available online at ajcarchives.org/main.php?GroupingId=10033]
Szold, Henrietta, ed. American Jewish Year Book. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 5668 [1907/1908]. Print. [Available online at ajcarchives.org/main.php?GroupingId=10040]
Margoshes, Samuel. The Jewish Communal Register of New York City, 1917-1918. 2nd ed. New York: Kehillah (Jewish Community) of New York City, 1918. Print. [Available online at archive.org/details/jewishcommunalr00marggoog]
Additional sources of data are forthcoming. Please note that these sources may contain additional information not featured on the map.
The data in this custom map was geocoded using the Google Maps Geocoding API and stored in a MySQL database. The data was then indexed using Apache Solr Lucene Core technology. Making use of the Mapbox visualization library and query, the GeoJSON data is presented in the interactive map. The search functionality and data loads are all executed in a custom-written PHP application. The site front-end is a responsive website making use of Twitter Bootstrap, CSS3 and HTML5.
Project Concept and Management: Moriah Amit, Senior Reference Services Librarian (Ackman & Ziff Family Genealogy Institute)
Website/Database Design and Maintenance: Jason Carlin, Webmaster (Center for Jewish History)
Data Entry and Cleaning: Susan Atlas, Stew Driller, Jane Gelfand, Aaron Rosenberg, and Mark Shapiro, Volunteers (Ackman & Ziff Family Genealogy Institute); Ilya Slavutskiy and Ted Houghtaling, Reference Services Staff (Center for Jewish History)
Special thanks to: J.D. Arden and Rebecca Clark at the Center for Jewish History and Matt Knutzen and Mauricio Giraldo at the New York Public Library.
Synagogue images are courtesy of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research.