The Origins of our shul:
Rabbi Bloom was the first rabbi of Congregation Anshi SfardThe following is based on (1) pages 94-95 of Steven Hertzberg’s book, Strangers Within the Gate City: The Jews of Atlanta, 1845-1915 (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1978) and (2) information from Dan Rettberg. Information from Dan is in [ ].
The founders of Ahavath Achim (Atlanta’s first Eastern European synagogue, founded in 1887) …were from Lithuania and as such were mostly Mitnagdim, adherents of the rationalistic and legalistic party within Orthodoxy. With the increase in Galician and Ukrainian Jewish settlers after 1900, Hasidism made its appearance in Atlanta. Hasidism, a pietistic movement of religious revival founded in the eighteenth century, emphasized mysticism and personal spontaneity rather than fixed practice and talmudic discourse. The two Orthodox groups (Hasidim and Mitnagdim) differed in their liturgies, folkways, and views of traditional Judaism.
Although a few traces of Old World suspicion remained, the early Hasidim attended services atAhavath Achim and Shearith Israel (other early Atlanta synagogues). By 1911 they were numerous enough to hold their own services and two years later incorporated themselves as Beth Hamedrash Hagodol Anshi S’fard (Great House of Study of the Men of Spain [or Great House of Study of the Men of the Hasidic Rite (Nusach S’fard)]. Ahavath Achim lent the congregation one of its Torahs, and Rabbi Levin (of Ahavath Achim) provided further assistance. At first the congregation met in the Red Men’s Hall on Central Avenue, but by the end of 1913 a wooden building at the corner of Woodward Avenue and King Street was secured. A few years later the congregation moved several blocks west to the corner of Woodward and Capital avenues. Too poor to engage a rabbi and [possibly] more disposed to follow the prophetically inspired than the rabbinically ordained, the congregation of Anshi S’fard was initially served by several cantors, two of whom were Rev. Stein and Jacob Taratoot (history of Jacob and his family).
The name “Anshi S’fard” (literally “Men of Spain”) referred not to the Hasidim’s ancestry but to elements of their liturgy. They prayed according to the Nusach S’fard [the prayer rite of Rabbi Yitzhak Lurya (Nusach Ari), an important kabalistic rabbi of the sixteenth century, or a combination of Nusach Ari and Nusach Polen] rather than the Nusach Ashkenaz (the Central and Eastern European liturgy).
After 1945, the southside settlement of Jews where Anshi S’fard was originally located disappeared, and Jews increasingly concentrated in the Morningside and Johnson Estates neighborhoods of northeast Atlanta and the Briarcliff-LaVista section of the adjoining DeKalb County. During this migration, Anshi Sfard relocated to its present location on Highland, in the Morningside area. The synagogue remained orthodox, and met in a residential building renovated to provide for the worship needs of the congregation.
Rabbi Nathan Katz became the rabbi of Congregation Anshi S’fard in the 1950’s and remained our spiritual leader until his passing in 1998.