06 July 2009

Washington: First synagogue

The first synagogue in Washington state was Emanu-El in Spokane. Fellow geneablogger Miriam Robbins Midkiff let me know about this article in the Spokane-Review.

On June 25, a rededication was held and a plaque commemorates the original location of Temple Emanu-El, on Madison Street between Third and Fourth avenues. For those who know Spokane, it is at the back of the Downtown Lexus of Spokane dealership, next to a freeway onramp.

The ceremony carried special meaning just before Independence Day.

Jews were in evidence as early as the 1870s. He noted that in the late 1880s, Spokane’s Jewish community had no permanent house of worship, but a Christian man donated a lot at Third and Madison so a temple could be built.

Temple Emanu-El was dedicated at the site Sept. 14, 1892 – four days before Ohaveth Sholum Synagogue was opened in Seattle – making Spokane’s temple the first in the state. It was a frame building, 40 feet by 70 feet, with a stone foundation that cost $3,500, which was raised by donations. It stood at the site until 1934.

Temple Emanuel was a Reform congregation, and in 1901 the city’s Orthodox Jews formed their own congregation, Keneseth Israel, holding services at the Odd Fellows Hall until 1909, when they built their own structure at Fourth Avenue and Adams Street.
Dignitaries at the dedication included Spokane Mayor Mary Verner; Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich; Chabad House's Rabbi Yisroel Hahn; Temple Beth Shalom president Karrie Brown; Faith Bible Church's Rev. Dan Jarms; Hilary Bernstein of Seattle's Anti Defamation League, as well as representatives from congressional and city offices.

Also present, Jerry Klinger of Rockville, Md., president of the non-profit Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation which provided the plaque; and Emily Sue Pike, a 30-year history teacher at North Central High School, who conducted the background research for Klinger.

Klinger's group has done this before in 2004, but this spring the plaque was vandalized this spring; Klinger offered to repair and rededicate it.

His group has erected many such markers and constructed commemorative sites around the world, including Little Camp at Buchenwald.

Read the complete story at the link above and learn how this community event ties in to the July 4th celebration.

For more, click here and search for “Spokane’s Jewish Community."

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