Promptly following the first arrival of Jews in colonial America, the synagogue became the most significant institution of Jewish life. Unlike in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, when other institutions, such as Jewish community centers and Jewish philanthropic organizations, often claimed to be the “central address” of the Jewish community, no other organization challenged the dominance of the early synagogues. In part, this was the case for two reasons: because, well into the nineteenth century, synagogues incorporated activities that later, as the Jewish population grew, could not all be contained within the synagogue or whose leaders did not want them to be part of the synagogue, and also because the Jewish community was so small…. The synagogue…was the Jewish community in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries . As American Jews slowly created philanthropic organizations, the synagogue enveloped them.
Marc Lee Raphael, The Synagogue in America: A Short History (New York & London: New York University Press, 2011), 2.