After extensively researching Jewish history on Long Island, Brad Kolodny found himself with much more historical information that could be included in his two books. He decided to put that knowledge to good use by founding the online Jewish Historical Society of Long Island.
As part of his research, Brad Kolodny had visited and photographed every synagogue on Long Island. “I wanted to tell a comprehensive story about every synagogue past and present in Nassau and Suffolk County,” Kolodny said. “Over the course of four years, I researched every synagogue building and visited every synagogue building.” The book on synagogues is “Seeking Sanctuary: 125 Years of Synagogues on Long Island,” published in 2019 and his other book is “The Jews of Long Island: 1705-1918,” to be published next year.
Kolodny founded the Jewish Historical Society of Long Island to create a comprehensive collection of Judaica (ceremonial art), other items, documents and stories about Jewish life on the Island.
“There was so much information in both of these books that I gathered that couldn’t be included,” Kolodny said. “That’s where the idea of the Jewish historical society came. There’s just so much information that people don’t know about and I wanted to be able to bring it to light within an organization that will not just document the Jewish experience on Long Island, but also keep artifacts and records of the Jewish community.”
The society is fairly new – they first started the collection about a month ago – so the online collection features nine items including a Glen Cove postcard, an Ellis Island inspection card, and a brass candelabra. The organization is looking for donations of items from any time period.
“Anything from photographs to Jewish items from Jewish owned businesses that were on Long Island, or ritual items,” Kolodny said. “Really anything that helps describe Jewish life on Long Island.”
Jay Steinberg, former president of Huntington Jewish Center and member of the Huntington Historical Society, is currently the treasurer of the society. He began his interest in local Jewish history in Huntington.
“My initial interest was through the local Jewish history of Huntington Jewish Center and felt that other communities on Long Island ought to be doing more of the historical work that's necessary to keep everything alive,” Steinberg said.
On Sept. 5, the Jewish Historical Society of Long Island is hosting an event to honor the first synagogue built in 1896 in Setauket. “We are going to be celebrating the 125th anniversary of the opening of that synagogue,” Kolodny said. “The building still stands on main street in Setauket, but it is no longer being used as a synagogue. It’s owned by the United Methodist church.”
The JHSLI is partnering with the church and the North Shore Jewish Center, a congregation whose history dates to 1893. “It’s a perfect way to pay tribute to the pioneers who started our congregation and at the same time bring awareness to the broader Setauket community about the importance of this building,” said Rabbi Aaron Benson, the Jewish Center’s spiritual leader.
To donate items and learn more about the Jewish Historical Society of Long Island at https://www.jhsli.org/.