Closeup of the design in the foyer ceiling mural. (Photo © Queens Council on the Arts)

 

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Learn About the Astoria Center of Israel

ACI offers Jewish religious, cultural, and education services, as well as providing a long history of civic leadership throughout our more than 75 year history.

The “roots” of The Astoria Center of Israel can actually be traced back to what some of us consider as our parent Shul, the former Congregation Mishkan Israel. Mishkan Israel, whose building was erected in 1906, stood next to our Shul from the time of our building inception in 1925—until a fire destroyed the Mishkan building in the 1980s. Records exist that can trace the beginnings of what became Congregation Mishkan Israel to the 1880s. So in a sense, we can say that the ACI has had a Jewish presence here in Astoria since before the turn of the twentieth century.

Our History
In 1921, influenced by their Ladies Aid Society (the predecessor of our current Ladies Guild) the women of whom, from even that time, were the major motivating force for Jewish education and culture in the neighborhood (In their own words, they wanted to “Implant in our children, a love and reverence for our noble tradition”) the members of Congregation Mishkan Israel decided to build a new Talmud-Torah to meet the needs of a burgeoning Jewish population in the area. This was the original purpose for which our beautiful building came to be built.

By 1926, under the leadership of a young rabbi by the name of Joshua Goldberg, (who, later went on to become the first Jewish chaplain of the US Navy and who had a long and distinguished career in military chaplaincy) the need for a new larger Synagogue and Jewish center had become apparent. The “Charter Members” decided to embark upon this direction. By 1929, the ACI had become a fully operational “Center” of Jewish life in Queens.

Throughout the years, and under the leadership (both clergy and lay) of many devoted and creative people, ACI became and remains the dynamic Jewish spiritual, social, cultural, educational home to a multitude of people. Many still keep in contact with us from all over the world. We have always had excellent relations with other communal organizations in the area and have been a welcoming forum for civic events in Western Queens.

Despite the dramatic population shifts that have seriously affected the ability of Jewish and communal organizations to prosper, our “Center”, strengthened by the vision of our forebears, still strives and maintains the level of Jewish life and communal service that affected so many who have passed through our portals. We continue to keep up the noble traditions that were imbued in us so many years ago. As we look forward, and welcome new people into our midst, we are inspired by the quotation that our founders inscribed on our Charter: "Behold how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity".

In 2009, Astoria Center of Israel was added to National and State Registers of Historic Places. On November 15th 2009 ACI proudly marked our synagogue being added to the National and State Registers of Historic Places with a program that included live music and addresses by congregation leaders, previous Rabbis, and local and national politicians. Another commemoration took place on December 15 in the office of the Queens Borough President. Click HERE to see our special coverage of the historic event including links to local media coverage in print and on television.

Our Clergy

Rabbi Jonathan Pearl, Ph.D.
Rabbi Jonathan Pearl has been the rabbinic leader of ACI since the fall of 2008, bringing to us his dynamic leadership, warmth, and passion for Judaism. Working with ACI’s wonderful congregants, he is spearheading a resurgence of our synagogue, eagerly drawing upon its proud and unique 80 year history in the area, while simultaneously seizing upon Astoria’s current renaissance to forge ahead with great vision and excitement.

Teacher, spiritual guide, and musician/composer, Rabbi Pearl’s deeply thoughtful and welcoming approach inspires and challenges all. A graduate of the Academy for Jewish Religion, the nation’s oldest pluralistic rabbinical seminary, Rabbi Pearl was ordained before a beit din (rabbinic court) composed of a Reform rabbi, a Conservative rabbi, and an Orthodox rabbi – an historic first. Following his ordination, he was awarded the prestigious year-long Fellowship at “CLAL,” a pluralistic Jewish think-tank.

Rabbi Pearl earned his Ph.D. in the Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies at NYU’s Graduate School of Arts and Science. He co-wrote The Chosen Image: Popular TV’s Portrayals of Jewish Themes and Characters, the first-ever book on this topic, and co-founded the Jewish Televimages Resource Center, a media research group. An award-winning author, he has written – and been featured in – numerous articles and publications nationwide, and has lectured throughout the country.

Raised in a Conservative rabbinic home in Queens, Rabbi Pearl’s own family has become an integral part of our synagogue’s life. His wife Judith co-chairs the Outreach Committee, their daughter Ayelet designs publicity material and is the lively teacher of the reviving Hebrew School, their son Eitan is Ba’al Korei at Shabbat and holiday services, and youngest son Noam is the Ashrei leader at services.

Cantor George Lindenblatt
Cantor George Lindenblatt has been with the Astoria Center of Israel for more than 40 years. He is one of the few cantors who can say they were raised in an Orthodox family, graduated from a Reform cantorial school, and now serve a Conservative synagogue. It is perhaps this diverse background that accounts for his ability to reach out, with genuine heart, to a wide spectrum of people within the Jewish community. Here at ACI, he is not only our melodious voice of prayer on the bimah but a friend and counselor to many.

Cantor George was born in Budapest on the eve of World War II. Escaping the country following the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, he settled in New York where he earned a Bachelor of Sacred Music degree from Hebrew Union College. His wife, writer Elaine Freed Lindenblatt, is our long time bulletin editor. Their family includesdaughter Eve, her husband John Nasetti, and their children Daniella and Francesco; daughter Suzanne, her husband Boaz Gilad, and their children Noa, Ella, and Benjamin; and daughter Nicole and her husband Paul Kahn.

 

 

 

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