Synagogue Dedicated: Dr. Darlington Speaks at the Opening of a Hebrew House of Worship at Setauket.
“Hebrews and Christians from this and neighboring villages turned out in large numbers to attend the dedication. The new house of worship stands on the main street and a short distance from the rubber works, where the greater number of members are employed…The new building, known as the A Goodes Acherm [sic] synagogue of Setauket, was built by the society of that name, organized about five years ago. The building is not yet fully completed, but will be by another week. It is very plain, of simple design and costs about $1,500 complete. It is 24 x 36 feet and of frame. The interior is ceiled with pine and has a gallery extending across the end. It has sittings for about three hundred persons. Its members now number fifty-two…”
Dr. James H. Darlington, pastor of Christ Church in Brooklyn and a summer resident of Old Field, presented a “generous contribution” and addressed those attending. “I come here to-night on your invitation, twice declined in person, to greet you as a neighbor and friend. Not that I agree with you in all your views or am any less a Christian minster and sincere believer of the Christian faith, but I respect your venerable and most ancient belief as all Christians must who remember that the New Testament sprang out of and is based upon the books of Moses…We differ as widely as possible on many points of belief, but there are equally as many we hold in common…”
“And We’re Still Here” by Helene Gerard
“More than two million Jews left Eastern Europe and came to America between 1880 and 1914. Before 1900, some of them found their way to Eastern Long Island as peddlers, farmers and factory workers. Those who settled in the little rural villages struggled through the early years, establishing families, businesses and religious communities in an area where no Jews had lived for 250 years. By the 1930s, they were financially established and were accepted as respected, contributing members of their villages. In many ways, their stories are typical of other immigrant groups who arrived during the same period, yet they are different, for these people maintained their Jewish identity.”
“In the 1870s and 1880s, Long Island reflected the rest of the country as railroads threw sparks across formerly peaceful farmlands and flat landscapes were suddenly broken by the three and four story factory buildings of small industry. These companies advertised for help in New York’s foreign language newspapers, emphasizing clean air and healthy living conditions. Recruiters also went to Ellis Island, bringing families directly to factory towns by train or steamship.”
Ms. Gerard’s words are reflected in the history of Setauket and the roots of the Jewish community in the Three Villages.
The Setauket Rubber Factory
The Setauket rubber factory, located on Chicken Hill, opened in the 1870s and attracted a labor force of new immigrants arriving at New York. Initially the factory employed many Irish and German immigrants. Factory owner J. W. Elberson also recruited workers through the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. Jewish immigrants arriving in New York from Eastern Europe (Russia, Poland, Lithuania, etc.) were offered jobs in Setauket. Jewish families relocated from the city to the “country” where factories were being built or to establish businesses to serve those communities. By 1887 the local rubber factory employed some 500 workers, the majority were people of the Hebrew faith. Multiple members of the same family, both adults and children, would be employed. The factory employed so many Jewish workers that the factory closed for the High Holy Days. As the population grew businesses such as a Kosher butcher, general store, etc. were opened which supported the Jewish community.
In the late 1870s and early 1880s the Golden family, David Pinnes and 15 other Jewish families, started holding religious services in their homes. By 1892 there were some 100 Jewish families in Setauket. Elias Golden is considered the founder of the Setauket congregation and was the congregation’s first president when Agudas Achim was incorporated on Nov. 28, 1893.
Marc Stern states “Samuel Golden…recalled in a 1980 interview that his grandfather [Elias], father [Isaac], mother, and sisters all worked in the rubber factory, on and off, from the late 1880s, before his father established a saloon for rubber workers. They came to Setauket at the beginning of Jewish migration to the area. Sam’s father, a young man peddling dry-goods from a sack, learned of a need for workers and brought this family to Setauket. Whether these workers supplanted or supplemented the original laborers, Jewish hands soon figured prominently for the firm and town.”