Temple Adath Israel
Temple Adath Israel is home to one of Kentucky's oldest Jewish congregations. The temple was founded in 1858 by German - Jewish immigrants who had fled religious persecution. The synagogue was constructed in 1877 - 1878 for the eighteen families that made up the congregation, many of whom were prominent merchants. The building's unique architecture is a combination of Moorish, Classical and Gothic styles. The Moorish style is most visible in the small domes that used to rest atop the front facade. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.
Backstory and Context
Temple Adath Israel is the only Jewish synagogue in Owensboro. The congregation was established in 1858. Worship services were conducted in temporary locations around the city until the synagogue was constructed in 1877-78.
The temple was constructed with a Moorish Revival facade that featured four onion-domed turrets across the front of the building, which have been removed in recent years. A Gothic-arched door is ﬂanked by a pair of Gothic-arched windows. The stained-glass images depict the tablets of the Ten Commandments and a menorah. The one-story, one-room brick building is divided by pilasters into three bays on the front and four on the sides. Each bay contains a full-story lancet window. The stained glass in these windows was imported from Germany. Above the front door and pointed arch window is a brick inscribed with the year 1878 and Hebrew text from Psalms 118:20, which translates to “This is the gateway to the Lord; they shall enter through it.” The ark and organ are supposed to date from the foundation of the synagogue. The architect is unknown.
The Jewish community at the time had a strong presence in the business and industry sectors, owning more half of the retail clothing stores in the 1880's according to city directories. Prominent Jewish business citizens include dry goods merchants Moses Levy, Bernard Baer, and Solomon Wile, bottling works owner Bernhardt Rosenthal, and Phillip Dahl of the scrap metal duo Dahl & Groezinger. Other notables include Theodore Levy, son of Moses Levy, and Clemmie Wolf. Levy founded the Associated Charities of Owensboro in 1915, which later became the Welfare League, as well as serving as rabbi for the congregation. His property later became The Levy Memorial Home for needy children. Wolf served as a nurse during the Spanish Influenza Epidemic of 1918 before dying of the disease herself. Many attended her funeral despite the threat of influenza.
The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986 and is among the oldest synagogue buildings still standing in the United States. Services are on the Jewish New Year and Day of Atonement each year.
"Our History." Temple Adath Israel. Accessed February 16, 2017. http://adathisrael.weebly.com/our-history.html.
"Temple Adath Israel." National Park Service - National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form. March 28, 1986. https://npgallery.nps.gov/GetAsset/66dabacf-74b6-48f2-8439-f44207495328.
Weissbach, Lee Shai. The Synagogues of Kentucky. Perspectives on Kentucky's Past: Architecture & History. Lexington, KY. The University Press of Kentucky, 1995.
"Miss Wolf's Funeral ." Owensboro Daily Inquirer (Owensboro) November 11th 1918. Evening ed.2.
Encyclopedia of Southern Jewish Communities - Owensboro, Kentucky, Institute of Southern Jewish Life. Accessed December 11th 2019. https://www.isjl.org/kentucky-owensboro-encyclopedia.html.