The Grand Concourse was “the” neighborhood, a wide, majestic boulevard filled with grand apartment buildings, synagogues, theaters, and restaurants.
On the High Holidays, observant and non-observant Jews alike promenaded along the Grand Concourse in their best clothes in the Bronx Jewish equivalent of the Easter Parade. The Grand Concourse was home to several synagogues, among the largest, Temple Adath Israel at 169th Street, where Richard Tucker was the cantor before becoming a star of the Metropolitan Opera, and the Concourse Center of Israel, near 183rd Street.
Today, Riverdale is a locus for much organizational Jewish activities. The leafy area along the Hudson River in the northwest Bronx was historically farmland that separated Manhattan’s wealthy from their suburban Westchester retreats. Riverdale, the northwest Bronx, makes up the major portion of the area of community Board No. 8 which also includes Marble Hill, Kingsbridge and Kingsbridge Heights. But, even Riverdale is the generic name for Riverdale, North Riverdale, Fieldston, and Spuyten Duyvil).
The Jewish population of the East Bronx grew to a peak of over 150,000 soon after the New York CIty subway system reached the area in 1927.
There were numerous small synagogues in storefronts and private houses as well as a good number of larger buildings newly built as shuls. You could walk from Soundview in the South to Wakefield and Edenwald in the North and never go ten blocks without passing a Synagogue. The area encompasing Pelham Parkway and Parkchester was home to over 30 Synagogues of various sizes.
The history of Temple Beth-El on City Island during the past 80 years is the history of the Jewish community on this unique island off the eastern shore of the Bronx. It is more than the story of a small house of worship in a small community. It’s also the story of a community that extended its assistance to help us get started and become an integral and contributing part of that community. Without the whole-hearted support of the churches, organizations and people of City Island, there would be no Temple Beth-El today.