BAS History

An Early History of Beth Abraham Synagogue
By: Dr. Leonard Spialter

The congregation, titled K.K. House of Abraham, was incorporated as a Jewish organization of worship on July 25, 1894. Original signatories were A. C. Geshichter, Isaac Ferst, A. Meyer Jenefsky, Len Cohn, Charles Frank, and Sam Behrman. The office of the Secretary of the State of Ohio once had an aperture card bearing a photo image of the incorporation document.

The first mention in the Williams Dayton City Directory was in the 1895/96 volume where on page 23 we find “K.K. House of Abraham (Hebrew Congregation), southeast corner Fifth and Wayne Ave., Isaac Ferst, secretary.”

The Montgomery County (Ohio) Probate Court, in its list of ministers authorized to perform marriages, shows Rev. Mandel D. Friedland, of “Beth Abraham House of Abraham” licensed as of Sept. 24, 1894. Rev. Friedland’s tenure must have been less than one year since he does not appear in the City Directory.

The same Probate Court’s marriage license files show that “Rabbi” Mandel Friedland officiated at the wedding of Louis Block and Emma Greenwald on Dec. 16, 1894.

Isaac Ferst, a picture frame maker, appears for the first time in the 1895/96 City Directory, and Meyer Jenefsky, a peddler, in 1895/96. From these dates and the prompt establishment of Beth Abraham, it seems less likely that these founders broke away from membership in Beth Jacob (House of Jacob, at the time) to form Beth Abraham. It may well have been the desire to establish a ‘Litvische” schul, rather than a ‘Russische” one. However, it must be noted that Aaron Tahl, one of the leaders at Beth Jacob, was licensed by the County Probate Court on Jan. 17, 1898 to perform marriages associated with the Congregation “The Children of Abraham.”

“In the 1900/01 directory, the more detailed address of the congregation was given as Room 5, southeast corner of Fifth and Wayne Ave. and continued there through 1901/02.

In 1902/03, the K.K. House of Abraham moved to its own small wood-frame building on Wayne Ave. opposite Jones St., and the directory listed the first associated Rabbi, Rev. Philip Weissman, recent past Rabbi of the House of Jacob. When he was recalled back in 1903/04, Rev. Louis Shear became Rabbi at K.K. House of Abraham. The Probate Court marriage authorizations were given to Weissman and Shear on May 29, 1891 and June 4, 1903 respectively.

In 1907/08 Rev. David (sic)Burick first appeared as Rabbi of the congregation, still on Wayne Ave., opposite Jones St. and continued, with corrected given name of Samuel, in this role for 40 years. His Probate Court license was granted July 31, 1906.

The Dayton flood of spring 1913 washed out the small synagogue. The members then continued to worship at various locations in the vicinity until the completion in 1917 of 530 Wayne Ave., an imposing masonry-faced edifice at a cost of about $85,000. Several of the congregants, unable to give money, contributed their construction skills to much of the interior carpentry.

The flood, however, motivated many Jewish families to relocate across the Miami River to the higher ground in lower Dayton View. Eventually, the number of families increased to the point where there was a significant number of Jewish children to educate and the walk to Wayne Ave. was too tedious. By 1922, an organizing group was set up primarily and initially to establish an educational institution. This culminated in Articles of Incorporation, filed and recorded on Jan. 8, 1924, for The Dayton View Synagogue Center as a house of worship and education center. Signatories included J. I. Leventhall, A. B. Saeks, M.E. Saeks, Rose Friedlob, Nathan Factor, Minnie Wolfson, A. L. Pierce, Sadie Tanis, H. L. Miller, R. Lustig, Harry Katz, Eva Spaier, Samuel Finn, Philip Sokol, V. Lieberman, Jacob Siegal, John Matusoff and Dorothea Saeks.

From the 1920s on, the House of Abraham had Rev. Samuel F. Burick as general factotum for more than 40 years, functioning as Rabbi, Cantor, and Shochet, with occastional Rabbinical breaks by A. Braude (1922), Abraham Lobel (1930), Isaish/Isaac Rackovsky (1932) and Irving Meisel (1939).

The Dayton View Center, located at 225 Cambridge Ave. saw a procession of Rabbis: Milton Rosen (1930), Meir Lasker (1932), Samuel Shapiro (1941), Marvin Fox (1943), and Jacob B. Agus (1943).

With the population shift increasingly away from south–central Dayton into the Dayton View section, the two Orthodox synagogues, K.K. House of Abraham and House of Jacob, along with the Conservative Dayton View Synagogue Center began mutual talks about joint moves in 1941. However, World War II interrupted the negotiations, as well as drafting young men into the military, and restricting new building construction projects.

During the war, Beth Jacob decided to build its own new facility on Kumler Ave. Beth Abraham and the Dayton View Synagogue Center, however, merged their names, religious orientation, and rabbis, resulting in the Conservative-affiliated Beth Abraham United Synagogue Center, with designated Rabbi Jacob B. Agus and Rabbi-Emeritus Samuel F. Burick.

The united BAU held its first Board of Directors meeting on Oct. 24, 1943, at the 225 Cambridge Ave. site. Subsequently, the four acre plot at Salem and Cornell, on which the Mearick mansion was situated, was purchased for $40,000. In the fall of 1944, this large home was remodeled, under the direction of Herman L. Miller, to house religious educational and cultural facilities. At the same time, plans were made to construct the Beth Abraham Synagogue building. With the end of the war, new constructions were then permitted by the federal government, and BAU was on its way.

The old Wayne Ave. building was sold in 1947 and the Cambridge Ave. site soon thereafter. Cantor Abraham Solkov was hired, and the era encompassing about half a century began.

The building on Salem Ave. was sold in 2008 and in March of 2008 Beth Abraham Synagogue moved to its current location at 305 Sugar Camp Circle.