History or comments

An independent Orthodox, Torah-observant, family-oriented synagogue in the heart of North Buffalo.

In 1825, fifteen years after the founding of Buffalo, the Jewish politician and playwright Mordechai Manuel Noah bought the huge island which languishes in the Niagara River between Buffalo and the Falls. Naming the island Ararat, he established it as a refuge for the Jewish people. This combination Jewish Nirvana and flood prone Promised Land was soon abandoned without even leaving a synagogue for us to photograph. However, the City of Buffalo flourished because it was a transfer point linking the Great Lakes with the Erie Canal, thus being the freight and transportation hub connecting New York (and the world) with cities such as Detroit, Cleveland, Chicago and the vast American west beyond.

Where commerce flourishes there are Jews and Buffalo was no exception. When railroads made the Erie Canal obsolete, Buffalo had an extra advantage that helped its economy continue to grow: Niagara Falls. The rushing water was a potent source of energy, harnessed to produce electricity by means of an enormous underground tunnel to power the city and generate hydroelectric power. By 1901, Buffalo was known as “The City of Light”. It hosted the Pan American Exposition which featured dazzling electric light displays ushering in the electrical revolution. This revolution was like the computer revolution in that it fundamentally changed the way people lived and Buffalo was that era’s Silicon Valley. On the east side of Buffalo alone there were twelve Orthodox synagogues as well as a Jewish library and a community house. In the 1950s, with the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway, Buffalo lost much of its heavy industry, and improvements in electricity transmission rendered proximity to Niagara Falls increasingly irrelevant. Over the last 50 years, the city has lost 50% of its population yet there remains a strong Jewish community with 10 synagogues of varying sizes.

The Sarnac Synagogue building was originally built in 1918 as a Methodist church. It was sold to the Jewish Congregation Ner Israel in 1931, thus beginning its life as a Jewish house of worship. As a result of a 1952 merger Ner Israel moved to another location which lead to the purchase of the Sarnac by Congregation Achei Tmimim in 1955.

For several years The Hebrew Academy of Buffalo and the North Buffalo Jewish Community Center shared space with Congregation Achei Tmimim. Nowadays the Sarnac is home to the new Yeshiva Gedolah of Buffalo as well as Achei Tmimim which to this day honors the Hungarian Chassidic minhagim (customs) and Nusach Sfard (Chassidic – Kabbalistic siddurim).