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The left side of State Street from the intersection of State and Fourth. The white church on the left is Kesher Israel, which earlier had been the First Freewill Baptist Church.


Photo: Historical Society of Dauphin County

Kesher Israel

The property at the corner of Fourth and State Streets was utilized by various church organizations throughout the history of the Old 8th Ward. In 1859, the Second Lutheran Church met at this location. In 1865, the First Freewill Baptist Church purchased the property for $15,000.

As the neighborhood became more ethnically diverse, a large influx of Russian Jews, who were fleeing persecution, settled in the ward. They transformed large sections of the ward by purchasing "entire squares of property" and "former nests of infamy and gambling dens . . . were extinguished or driven to other locations" by this growing Jewish community. In October of 1902, the Kesher Israel Synagogue was organized, and it soon after purchased the church property at Fourth and State. The synagogue was active at this location until 1918. Another synagogue, Chisuk Emuna, operated on Filbert Street.

(Summarized from an article written by J. Howard Wert for the Harrisburg Patriot newspaper on December 30, 1912, and reprinted in Harrisburg's Old Eighth Ward, edited by Michael Barton and Jessica Dorman, (Charleston: Arcadia, 2002), 40-42.)

 

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