Temple Israel New Logo 508

Yom Shabbat, 2 Sivan 5777

Temple Israel's History:

For many years the Tallahassee Jewish community worshipped together at the Masonic Temple on Adams Street. A student rabbi from the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio would come to lead the service for the High Holidays each year. By 1937, the city had grown to 16,000. There was no public hospital and very few streets were paved. The Florida State College for Women (what is now Florida State University) had an enrollment of 1,500 and the Jewish community had no synagogue.

In 1937, some 25 Jewish families of Tallahassee met and organized to consider forming an official congregation and building a synagogue. They unanimously approved the founding of a congregation, and resolved to raise funds immediately for the purpose of building a house of worship. The organization, called the Tallahassee Jewish Community, Inc., elected officers Sam Mendelson, president; Albert B. Block, vice president; H. H. Bluestein, secretary, and Sam Robbins, treasurer. In addition, the following were elected to serve as a Board of Trustees: I. L. Eisenson, William A. Fleet, Ben Gilberg, Haskell Lippman, Sam Rosenberg, Louis Turner, and Sam Wahnish. In 1937, and again in 1938, High Holiday services were conducted by Aaron Wise, a student from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York City.

In September 1938, the Florida Federation of B'nai B'rith Lodges adopted a resolution calling for the establishment of a religious leadership program for the Jewish students at the University of Florida and the Florida State College for Women. The following month, October 1938, the State B'nai B'rith contacted the Tallahassee Jewish Community requesting the organization of a B'nai B'rith lodge in the city. On December 6, 1938, B'nai B'rith Lodge # 1043 came into being at a dinner at the Wakulla Springs Hotel. The meeting had been called so that the Tallahassee Jewish Community and the B'nai B'rith Lodge would have the opportunity to get acquainted with Rabbi David Max Eichhorn, who had been recommended to fill the position of rabbi for the local community and to be the Hillel director for both the Florida State College for Women and the University of Florida. At that time there were about 100 Jewish students at FSCW and 225 at the University of Florida. Both groups were pleased with Rabbi Eichhorn and engaged his services officially in a three-party contract.

Also, in 1939, in response to an appeal from Albert B. Block, Mrs. Sarah Levy of Washington, one of the older residents of Tallahassee, presented to the congregation a block of land on South Copeland Street, bounded by St. Augustine and West Lafayette Streets, as a site for the proposed new synagogue and community center. This was given as a memorial to her late husband, William Levy, who had come to Tallahassee in 1872 from Albany, New York, with his parents at the age of 12.

On February 24, 1939, Tallahassee's first rabbi was installed at a service held at the Masonic Temple. Rabbi Edmond Landau of Albany, Georgia, conducted the Friday evening service, followed by words of greeting from Albert B. Block, representing the Tallahassee Jewish Community; I. L. Eisenson, representing B'nai B'rith; H. H. Bluestein, representing the community, and Dr. L. R. Christie, representing the Tallahassee Ministerial Association. Rabbi Israel Kaplan of Jacksonville, delivered the rabbinical charge, and Rabbi Eichhorn delivered the response. A reception for Rabbi and Mrs. Eichhorn was given by the Sisterhood under the leadership of Mrs. Ben Gilberg, president.

Ground was broken for the synagogue building on July 12, 1939 and Temple Israel was the name selected for the congregation. On October 12, 1939 the formal Cornerstone Laying Service at the new building was conducted by the Florida Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons. This was most appropriate because the Jews of Tallahassee had conducted their religious devotions in the halls of the Tallahassee Masonic Lodge since just after the Civil War.

Finally, on February 23, 1940, exactly three years after the first organizational meeting, the new Temple Israel was dedicated.

In 2008, the congregation completed a large renovation of much of the facility including the sanctuary, social hall and foyer. In the process a beit midrash was created along with a prayer center that includes a high tech education room and a separate chapel.

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Temple Israel - Tallahassee, FL
2215 Mahan Drive
Tallahassee, Florida  32308
P: (850) 877-3517