Congregation Shivtei Yeshuron Ezras Israel
Address: 2015 S. 4th Street
Neighborhood: South Philadelphia
Year Built:Sometime between 1885 and 1896
Current Use: Synagogue
Congregation Shivtei Yeshuron is a store-front synagogue that is one of the few surviving links to the Jewish community that flourished in South Philadelphia from the late 19th century until World War II. Between 1882 and 1904, approximately 60,000 Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe landed at Philadelphia at the wharf at Washington Avenue. They settled in the neighborhood surrounding South Street, and founded their own charitable organizations and synagogues, Congregation Shivtei Yeshuron among them.
The building at 2015 S 4th Street was constructed as a store between 1886 and 1895, a time when new neighborhoods were being built south of Washington Avenue. The Jewish community expanded with the new construction, and Congregation Shivtei Yeshuron first rented the store-front property in 1909. The congregation purchased the building in 1914, and continues to hold services and community events at 2015 S Fourth Street to the present day.
By 1918, Philadelphia had grown to a city of 1.8 million people, of which 200,000 were Jewish. The United States Quota Act of 1924 ended immigration from Europe, and population patterns in Philadelphia mirrored those in other North American urban centers. The children of the immigrants grew up, and served in the Second World War. Most Jews from South Philadelphia moved away, to developments in the Northeast, other sections of the city, and suburbs. There are perhaps 250 Jewish residents, mostly elderly, who have continued to live in South Philadelphia.
Some Community Stakeholders
The stakeholders in the present and future of the congregation and building are many: students of Philadelphia history; the elderly congregants; and those like myself and friends, in our twenties and thirties, who welcome the chance to reclaim and revive an old space with arts, food, and community celebrations.
Possible Artistic Uses & Limitations
The building is a three-story structure with the sanctuary on street level; a second floor multi-purpose space; and a small third-floor room. The second and third floors are in need of reinforcement and finishing, while structurally sound and accessible. There is a sizable opening in the ceiling of the sanctuary through which women sitting on the second floor would watch services. The congregation requests flexibility on Friday nights, and Saturday, when the congregation observes the Sabbath. The sanctuary accommodates between 40 and 75.
Hidden City Philadelphia has secured provisional interest and commitment to participate from the owners or stewards of prospective sites for the 2013 festival. We cannot guarantee final festival participation for any site, as many are subject to transitional forces, such as changes in ownership or stewardship, development, hazmat remediation, public-private jurisdiction, access restrictions and, in some cases, continued physical deterioration.
With that said, we have secured interest and willingness from site owners and stewards to engage in a discovery process with artists, partner organizations, and other stakeholders concerning creative projects and public engagement. The realization of any artistic project for the festival will be the result of a collaborative process with, and eventual collective approval of, Hidden City staff, advisors, community stakeholders, and site owners.
Hidden City’s staff are facilitators and advocates with the goal of bringing about a productive and mutually satisfying relationship between artists and the other stakeholders essential to any creative process located in places where art making is not a regular activity.