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Joyce Levine, third from right, gathered with family members on Dec. 5 in Hoboken at Mulligan’s,
formerly the site of her grandfather’s laundry store. Photos courtesy Joyce Levine

A Hoboken synagogue sparked a journey into the past for a woman who recently learned about the role her grandfather played in that city’s Jewish community.

Joyce Levine of Washington Township earlier this year learned from her uncle that the Star of Israel synagogue in Hoboken at one point had a plaque bearing the name of his father, Levine’s grandfather, William Ressler.

The Hoboken Jewish Center, founded in the 1920s as a Conservative synagogue, merged with Star of Israel, an Orthodox synagogue founded in 1910, to become in 1947 the United Synagogue of Hoboken, which now meets in the former Star of Israel building. William Ressler had been one of Star of Israel’s founders.

“I immediately wanted to find out more about it,” Levine said.

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This plaque honors the founding members of Star of Israel, including William Ressler.

Levine called United Synagogue’s Rabbi Robert Scheinberg, who found the plaque in the lobby and took a picture of it for her. Because of the synagogue’s long history, the office receives several questions a year about family members who had at one time been involved in synagogue life.

“It is always exciting for us to get this kind of inquiry,” Scheinberg said.

Levine sent the picture to her uncle, who died last year. A few months ago, Levine attended the Hoboken Music & Arts Festival, where members of the United Synagogue had a booth. She told them about her grandfather, the plaque, and the photo Scheinberg had sent, and they invited her to a rededication ceremony at the synagogue on Dec. 5. Levine accepted and excitedly called family members, who also wanted to attend.

Ressler had owned a laundromat in Hoboken. Not expecting much, Levine searched the Internet for the address and learned that it is now a sports bar called Mulligan’s. She telephoned the owner, Paul Mulligan, and explained that her grandfather had once owned that storefront. Mulligan told her that the storefront still had the original glass panels, and he invited Levine and her family to come by during their visit for round of drinks on him.

And so, on Dec. 5, Levine and 19 other members of her family, including her children, grandchildren, and cousins, gathered for lunch at Mulligan’s before heading to the rededication.

At the celebration, synagogue leaders showed “Our Miracle,” a 15-minute video about the revival of Hoboken’s Jewish community and the history of the United Synagogue, which included a clip of Levine’s grandfather and his store.

“The reaction was very audible,” Scheinberg said. “They were very excited to see their relatives on screen and it was great for us to meet family members of some of the people who made [the synagogue] possible.”

In the sanctuary, Levine found another plaque bearing her grandfather’s name, this one on one of the pews.

“We all sat in that for a few minutes,” she said. “It was really exciting to know that was his pew and he sat in it. It was an amazing thing.”

When the visitors wandered upstairs, to the area that had formerly been the women’s section when the synagogue was Orthodox, Levine discovered another pew with a plaque bearing her grandmother’s name, Bertha.

“It was so wonderful for the family to come in really large numbers,” Scheinberg said.

During the rededication, Levine and her family were asked to stand and be recognized.

“It was very moving and a great moment in our family history,” Levine said.

Watch “Our Miracle,” a short movie about the revival of the Hoboken Jewish community, at www.hobokensynagogue.org/OurMiracle.php.