Congregation Keneseth Israel organizes as Spokane's first Orthodox Jewish congregation on April 1, 1901.

  • By Jim Kershner
  • Posted 7/02/2008
  • Essay 8643

 On April 1, 1901, a number of people in Spokane's growing Orthodox Jewish population meet and organize into a congregation of 22 members, each paying 50 cents in monthly dues. They obtain an official charter on May 3, 1901, and begin to raise money for their own synagogue. The Keneseth Israel Synagogue is finished in 1909 and becomes the congregation's home until 1966, when it merges with the city's other main Jewish congregation and becomes Temple Beth Shalom.

A Reform Jewish congregation had existed in Spokane since 1890, but by 1901 a number of Orthodox Jews, mostly from Eastern Europe, had arrived. They gathered to begin their own congregation, and for the first several years of their existence, they worshipped at the Odd Fellow's Hall in Spokane.

In 1905 they bought a tract of land at 4thg Avenue and Adams Street and began raising money to build a synagogue. The two-story Keneseth Israel Synagogue was finished in 1909. It had a separate balcony for women, as was traditional in Orthodox congregations, but this separation was later abandoned when the congregation joined the Conservative movement. By 1926, the congregation consisted of about 125 members and supported a Hebrew school with about 55 pupils.

In the 1960's, the synagogue was in the path of the Interstate 90 freeway project through downtown Spokane. In 1966, the congregation merged with the Temple Emanu-El and built the Temple Beth Shalom, which is now the center of Spokane's Jewish community.

Sources:  Moses N. Janton, History of the Jews in Spokane, Washington, from the Early Days Until the Present Time (Spokane: Star Printing House, 1926) manuscript in possession of Temple Beth Shalom, Spokane; Richard Rubens and Larry Grossman, History of the Jews of Spokane, Washington, 2008, manuscript in possession of Temple Beth Shalom; "New Orthodox Synagogue," Spokesman-Review, June 25, 1909.

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