Save this list of US Jewish heritage sites

The U.S. National Park Foundation did something special for us this year in honor of Hanukkah: It compiled a list of seven Jewish-American National Heritage sites!
I’m more than a bit embarrassed, amazed and saddened to realize that in many years of touring around our country, the only one of these places I’ve already visited is the Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island. It was dedicated in 1763, still has an active congregation, and hosts more than 30,000 visitors annually. (But also sad: I got there via a cruise ship stop; however, I was denied entrance to the edifice — even through the upstairs women’s door — because a service was in progress, and I was wearing slacks!)
Anyway, I’m tucking this list away for future reference; maybe I can make traveling to some or all of these little-known but fascinating places become Hanukkah gifts to myself in future years.
Touro was the Park Foundation’s No. 1 choice. Here are the others:
2. The Jewish Shelter Home in Portland, Oregon. Built in 1902, it was especially active during the depressed years of the ’20s and ’30s, providing medical care in addition to a place to live. And it still offers a religious upbringing to resident children, who are orphans or those with parents unable to care for them.
3. Beth Sholom Synagogue, for many years and still today an active congregation in the Philadelphia suburb of Elkins Park. Inclusion on this list honors it for its architecture; is the work of famed Frank Lloyd Wright, who designed quite a few churches, but never any building for any other religion except this one. (A sorry but true note: the Park Foundation has dropped an “s,” incorrectly giving the location of Beth Sholom as “Elkin” Park!)
4. Burkeville, Virginia’s Hyde Park. Not the same as the Hyde Park, New York, associated with the presidential Roosevelt family, this is a farm that became home to many Jews who were welcomed there in the 1930s and early ’40s — ones who were able to escape from Nazi Germany in time. During and after World War II, these immigrants found both an initial place to live and work to do there, elements crucial as they transitioned to permanent life in America.
5. The Jewish Center of Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York. Like Burkeville, above, Coney Island was also a settling place serving immigrants fleeing Europe, but these were people who came primarily from Eastern European persecution before the war. Built between 1929 and 1931, this center modeled its programming after the YMCA’s, bringing together school, synagogue and community activities in one central location.
6. St. Thomas Synagogue (Beracha Veshalom Vegmiluth Hasidim) is second in congregational age only to the Touro Synagogue (No. 1 on this list). Built in Charlotte Amalie, U.S. Virgin Islands, in 1833 for Sephardic Jews from Spain and Portugal, it has been in continuous use ever since.
7. Last but certainly not least on this distinguished if little-known compilation of chosen sites is the only private residence to make the list: the Chatham, Massachusetts home of Louis Brandeis, who was the first Jew ever to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. This house on Cape Cod was where the then-controversial appointee spent as much time as he could with his family during his years of tenure, 1916-1939.
If you’ve already visited any of these sites, Alanna Sobel, communications manager for the Foundation, asks you to share memories at Also requested: stories from any future visits. I hope to have a few of my own beside banishment from Touro, which I’ve already posted to her.
Have you ever visited places not necessarily singular enough in nature or in history to be included on a list such as the above, but where you had unexpected Jewish encounters? Maybe some of us are looking out for these possibilities more than others. Me? I confess: Guilty as charged!

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