Temple/Congregation Beth Israel of Phoenix/Scottsdale, AZ
Services were led by Harry Friedman, Wolf Lupkin, Max Spitalny and Sam.
Rabbi Martin Zielonka of El Paso would travel to Phoenix to counsel the Jewish community and inspire them to organize a synagogue.
Finally, in 1920, Congregation Beth Israel was incorporated. and contributions were solicited for the erection of a synagogue by the local B’nai B’rith Lodge and National Council of Jewish Women.
Charles Steinberg was elected President.
The Founding Fathers included: Solomon Ballsun, D. Harold Brayer, Isaac Diamond, David Goldberg, David Granow, Charles Korrick, Herman Lewkowitz, I. J. Lipsohn, Barnett E. Marks, Archie R. Miller, Isaac Rosenzweig, Sam D. Spitalny, Herbert Stein, Charles Steinberg and Samuel Wilson.
The First Building
The new congregation raised $14,000, hired an architect to design and construct a synagogue building near Central Avenue and Culver Street. The building was completed in 1921, and an annex added in 1930.
Phoenix being an “out of the way” place, the synagogue had difficulty keeping rabbis.
In 1930, the congregation became divided over the need for kosher food. The membership divided with more traditional members leaving to create their own Conservative synagogue, Beth El Congregation.
In 1935 a fire destroyed much of the synagogue requiring much rebuilding.
Abraham Lincoln Krohn became Congregtaion Beth Israel’s Rabbi in 1938.
The congregation had about 100 member families.
During Rabbi Krohn’s tenure the congregation began calling itself, “Temple Beth Israel.”
The Second Building
After World War II, the congregation had grown to approximately 300 families, and had outgrown its facilities.
Temple Beth Israel moved to a new location at Eleventh and Flower in 1949.
That year it affiliated with the Reform Movement.
During 1950 a young Rabbi helped serve the congregation for a short time by the name of William M. Kramer who would eventually become one of the founders of Western States Jewish History, the parent of this Jewish Museum of the American West.
By 1953 the congregation’s membership was 538 families.
In 1955, Rabbi Albert Plotkin joined Temple Beth Israel. Temple Beth Israel added an educational wing and museum to its building in 1967
Albert Plotkin would himself go on to serve as the congregation’s Rabbi for almost 40 years.
The Third Building
In 1997, the congregation moved to its current location at 10460 North 56th Street and Shea Boulevard in Scottsdale.
In 2003, membership was approximately 1,000 families, the largest Jewish congregation in Arizona.
The congregation also reverted to its original name of “Congregation Beth Israel.”
“To me, a ‘congregation’ represents people and community while the word “temple” represents a place or building. I would like us to be about the people. –Rabbi Kahn
Viewers are invited to add to this exhibit with pictures, etc.