Backstory and Context
During the early to mid 1800s, the recently established city of Charleston witnessed a steady growth of a small Jewish community. Drawn to the industrialization and opportunity of the region, the city’s new Jewish population became fully rooted in the community. By 1836, the Jewish population of Charleston was large enough to warrant its own section in Charleston’s Spring Hill Cemetery, called the Old Jewish Cemetery, which is now West Virginia’s oldest Jewish burial ground. Charleston’s Jewish community continued to grow during the mid-19th Century. By 1856, Congregation B’nai Israel (present-day Temple Israel) was informally organized, predating the creation of the state of West Virginia by seven years, and formally chartered as the Hebrew Educational Society with sixteen members in 1873. Shortly thereafter, the congregation became one of the founding members of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, now the Union for Reform Judaism. The society first met in rooms above a store on Capitol Street, two years later moving to a building on Lee Street. By 1894, a new temple was erected on Virginia Street and served the congregation for the next 66 years. In 1960, the congregation moved into its current temple on Kanawha Boulevard East and continues to serve Charleston’s Jewish community.
About Us. Temple Israel. May 28, 2019. https://templeisraelwv.org/about-us/.
Temple Israel Cemetery (B’nai Israel Cemetery). Temple Israel. May 28, 2019. https://templeisraelwv.org/cemetery/.
Jewish Communities in West Virginia. West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History. May 28, 2019. http://www.wvculture.org/arts/ethnic/jewish.html.
Shinedling, A I. Virtual Jewish World: West Virginia, United States. Jewish Virtual Library. May 28, 2019. https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/west-virginia-jewish-history.