A Walking Tour of Historic Jewish Monsey
The first three sites contain early Monsey history. The next four sites depict early Jewish Monsey history. (You may need to turn around the Google Map square to see the correct site, sorry.)
This beautiful sandstone house was built in 1756 by Zachariah Ferguson, and it is still standing today. On March 11, 1795, Michael Tenure bought 100 acres on which this house stood for 600 pounds. The Tenure family farmed the land for three generations. Two Tenure brothers fought in the Civil War and sent letters home, giving a rare description of daily life and other aspects of the war. At over 250 years old, this house is among Monsey's oldest features.
Down a dirt path, along a spring fed stream, one can walk today along the oldest inhabited path in the area. The stream used to be much more forceful and it carved out small caves in the sandstone in what is now Monsey Glen County Park. In and near these caves, the first inhabitants of Monsey lived: Members of the Minsi (Wolf) tribe of the Lenappe (Delaware) Indians.
In 1842, Eleazar Lord, founder of the Erie Railroad built a platform on the main line between Piermont and Harriman. The area around the train station was first named Kakiat, but later changed to Monsey. Minsi was the word for wolf, which was the totem of the tribes of Leni Lenape who lived here. The train depot was in large measure responsible for the growth of the area which was farmland.
Does the history of a place change with the physical face of the land? Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetsky, like his house, is no longer here, but his influence and positive affect are still felt. In 1967, Rabbi Kamenestsky retired as the Rosh Yeshiva (head scholar) of Yeshivat Torah Vodaath in NYC and moved to Monsey. Had he not come, it is difficult to say if or when Monsey would have become what it is today.
In 1943, Rabbi Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz, established Beis Medrosh Elyon, and moved the Aish Dos Teacher's Training Program to Monsey, NY. The high school and college were an extension of the Manhattan-based school Yeshivas Torah Vodaath, the first real Jewish educational institution in the country. The school bought this building on the corner of Main Street and Maple Avenue and created the most important seed that would eventually grow to become the rich Jewish community of Monsey, NY.
As Spring Valley and Monsey transitioned from a Summer bungalow destination to a year-round home, the fledgling Jewish community needed education for their children. Yeshiva of Spring Valley was created in 1943, before Beis Medrish Elyon, and it became the cornerstone of the community. For more than 75 years it has provided Jewish education, and it continues to do so today in a new building on West Maple Road.
In 1964, the Vizhnitzer Rebbe, Rabbi Mordechai Hager, announced his plan to move his community of followers from Brooklyn to the idyllic village of Monsey. He was hoping to leave behind the faced paced city life, and bring his followers to a peaceful place where they could live the lifestyle they wanted without many external influences. While there are Vizhnitz synagogues in other areas of Monsey, and in many other towns and countries, the village of Kaser is the hub of this Chasidic group.