After Rabbi Isaac Wise came to Albany and began preaching reform Judaism to a congregation with mixed belief systems, there was some dissension that culminated in a split between the Jewish community in Albany. At this site on Ferry Street stood the Synagogue of Anshe Emeth. The people that made up this congregation were adherents to Wise’s form of Judaic teaching. Because of this, Anshe Emeth is one of the first reform synagogues in the United States, setting a precedent for generations to come.
While Reform Judaism was by no means a new concept, many in Albany’s growing Jewish community,especially from the Polish and Eastern European residents felt that their Orthodox traditions, connecting them to their native land and tradition were being threatened, and the catalyst was the newly arrived Rabbi Wise. As wise continued to carry out oratories that criticized Orthodox dogmas, many members of the recently formed Congregation Beth El grew more and more angry. This anger reached a fever pitch Rosh Hashanah of 1850, when an outcry broke out leading to physical altercations and the intervention of Albany City law enforcement(Our History).
This split led to, ultimately, a great change in the dynamics of the Jewish community in Albany. What was happening in New York’s capital would not be exception, as reform Judaism began to gain popularity elsewhere in the United States. Anshe Emeth was formed first in a rented home near Madison and Pearl Streets. Wise presided over services in this location and the congregation was eventually led by prominent Jewish leader, Joseph Sporborg, who was instrumental in bringing a religious center to Albany’s Jewish residents. In the beginning of the 1850s, the Synagogue moved to Herkimer and Green Streets where leaders had bought a Baptist church, interestingly enough, this was one of the first Synagogues in the country to use the system of assigned pews for families,a Christian tradition that took hold throughout the United States in reform synagogues(Our History).
"Our History".Congregation Beth Emeth.March 19 2016http://www.bethemethalbany.org/images/uploads/pdfs/updated_history.pdf