In 1965, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey leased land to the three faith groups (Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish) at the newly established Idlewild Airport to erect separate houses of worship. The New York Board of Rabbis undertook the project of building the Synagogue at the International Airport so that the Jewish community would have equal religious representation at this new major airport. Each chapel contained “worship” space for 250 people, as well as meeting rooms, a library, a kitchen, and a small museum. The three chapels, standing side by side, represented the religious freedom that persons of every creed enjoy in the United States of America.
The chapel was dedicated in 1967. Rabbis, elected officials and civic leaders all were involved in the dedication ceremonies. Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey stated that the chapels represented “a symbol of the essential unity of our great religions, and a pledge of their determination to make this a better nation and a better world.” Rabbi Israel Mowshowitz, Chairman of the board of Governors of the Synagogue, expressed the hope that the three faith communities would help “create a climate for world peace, especially in the Middle East.”
In 1988, the independent chapels were taken over by the right of eminent domain to make way for runway expansion and the Port Authority decided to incorporate the chapels within the International Arrivals Building. Since it was inconvenient for passengers and employees to reach the chapels by foot from the terminals the three buildings were torn down to be re-located within the new main building. From 1988 until 2001, the three faith groups shared one temporary chapel on the second floor while construction was taking place. Presently, there are four chapels (a Multi-Faith chapel was added,) side by side, on the fourth floor of the International Arrivals Terminal. Each chapel accommodates approximately fifty people.
In 2021, at the annual Chanukah celebration, the chapel was dedicated by the Poplack family as The Rabbi Alvin and Rosalind Poplackz”l Memorial Chapel. Rabbi Poplack served as Chaplain from 1986 –2002.
In the past, the International Synagogue has recognized and greeted such dignitaries as David ben Gurion, Golda Meir, Rabbi Shlomo Goren, Rabbi Moshe Rosen, Dr. Zerach Wahrhaftig, and Abba Eban. Many prominent rabbis, rebbes, and communal leaders still come to pray here. Special conferences and meetings have been held on the premises due to its convenient location.
The International Synagogue continues to serve as a place of worship for travelers and as resource for the entire community. We are proud to provide a place for prayer, meditation, and study for the weary traveler and a place of refuge for the Jewish traveler within an environment that is nurturing and friendly.
Rabbi Ari Korenblit is the Jewish Chaplain.
The Chapel is open daily
Monday - Sunday: 5:00AM - 11:00PM
Please contact the Chaplain