Temple Israel History…
James Swann, Artist
Congregation B’nai Israel (Temple Israel) was informally organized in 1856, some 7 years before the creation of the State of West Virginia. The Congregation’s cemetery was founded even earlier, in 1836, and is the oldest Jewish cemetery in West Virginia.
The Congregation was legally chartered in 1873 as the Hebrew Educational Society. The first services were held in rooms over a store on Capitol Street with 16 members present. The Union of American Hebrew Congregations (now the Union for Reform Judaism) was organized that same year in Cincinnati. Our Congregation was among the original member congregations of the UAHC.
Dorothy Hardin Massey, Artist
In 1875, the Congregation moved to a small Temple on Lee Street. The Virginia Street Temple was erected and dedicated in 1894. Dr. Isaac Mayer Wise, founder of UAHC, delivered the dedicatory sermon. Our place of worship for 66 years, the Virginia Street Temple was eventually replaced in 1960 with the completion of our current home on Kanawha Boulevard East at Chesapeake Avenue.
Many accomplished rabbis have served the Congregation. Among the prominent rabbis who have served as spiritual leaders of the Congregation were Dr. Israel Bettan (1911-1922), who later became the noted Professor of Homiletics at the Hebrew Union College, and Dr. Maurice Eisendrath (1926-1928), a significant influence in the development of Reform Judaism who became the president of the UAHC.