The History of Syracuse’s Jewish Community

Unless you’re a longtime Syracuse resident, as you travel over the elevated portion of Route 81 through the center of the city, you may not realize that a thriving residential neighborhood, once known as the 15th Ward, was located just below. While the African-American heritage of this area was recently documented in a photographic exhibit held at the OHA, for nearly a century, the 15th Ward was also home to a vibrant Jewish community.

From the mid-1800’s through the 1950’s, the 15th ward was the primary Jewish community in Syracuse. The area was both residential and commercial and generally considered to be safe enough for children to roam freely. Residents were within walking distance to schools, family, friends, places to play, stores, and religious and community centers. Almond Street was the center of the community and originally home to the Jewish Community Center. There was a large sense of community within the 15th Ward and many families returned there to do their shopping and visit old friends even after moving to other parts of the city. The religion was a central focus of everything from home life to schools and shops, even though there were small populations of African Americans, Germans, Italians, and other immigrants living there at the time.

To learn more about the the Jewish community that made up the 15th ward, pick up the book Jewish Community of Syracuse at the OHA Gift Gallery or check out our new permanent exhibit, From Laying the Foundation to Forging Ahead: Jewish Contributions to Syracuse & Onondaga County.