Saturday, October 15, 2005
Congregation Albert City's Oldest
By David Steinberg
Journal Staff Writer
Founded in September 1897, Congregation Albert is Albuquerque's and New Mexico's oldest continuing Jewish house of worship.
In the 1890s, members initially conducted services in the Knights of Pythias Hall on Gold Avenue in Downtown Albuquerque, according to a history printed on the congregation's Web site.
Six months after establishing the congregation, members hired its first rabbi, William H. Greenburg of London, England, who held his first service at the Jolly Ten Hall on Gold, the Web site reported.
The site quotes his memoirs as saying that in Albuquerque he "spent two of the happiest years of (his) life, and did not leave until (he) had built a suitable Temple of worship."
The congregation saw a synagogue constructed in April 1900 on the northeast corner of Seventh and Gold.
The brick building's architecture featured an onion-shaped dome, a hipped, pitched roof, and twin staircases that reached a second-story entrance to the sanctuary.
The Web site also quotes Rabbi Greenburg's memoirs as saying that "in this little town of the West (he) was absolutely amazed at the culture and education in so large a proportion of its citizens who came with their families to blaze a new trail in industry and commerce or because of the unusual climate."
That first synagogue at Seventh and Gold no longer stands. It was demolished after the opening of the congregation's second building, on Lead between Oak and Mulberry SE, in 1951.
The congregation, which now has more than 700 family-members, moved again in 1984. Its current location is on Louisiana NE just south of Montgomery.
According to the Web site, the congregation's name came about through an auction: "Following the election of officers (on Sept. 26, 1897), it was decided that the privilege of naming the new congregation should be auctioned off. After some exciting bidding it was sold to the Grunsfeld family for $250. They selected the name Albert, in honor of Alfred Grunsfeld's late father. The following year the membership accepted the name 'Congregation Albert'... "
Albert Grunsfeld and his family had immigrated to Santa Fe from Germany in the early 1870s, working at the Spiegelberg Brothers' merchandising business. In 1876, Grunsfeld bought out the brothers' Albuquerque store and renamed it Grunsfeld and Sons. Albert and his sons, Alfred and Ivan, became successful merchants.
"I am proud of the fact that, from the very beginning of our existence as a synagogue, we have played a central role in the life of the Albuquerque community," said Joe Black, the congregation's present rabbi.
If you have a question about the city's history, an idea for a story about Albuquerque or the people who have made it what it is today, please send a letter to Arts editor Rene Kimball, 7777 Jefferson Drive NE, Albuquerque, N.M. 87109 or dash off an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org