The Cutler✡Plotkin Jewish Heritage Center of Phoenix, Arizona

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The CutlerPlotkin Jewish Heritage Center

The CutlerPlotkin Jewish Heritage Center had its beginning as the first synagogue building in Phoenix.
As early as 1906 a few Jewish pioneers living in Phoenix, Arizona gathered together for High Holy Day services in various meeting rooms.

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 Building

The First Congregation Beth Israel of Phoenix, Now refurbished as the Culver-Plotkin Center.

The First Congregation Beth Israel of Phoenix, Now refurbished as the Culver-Plotkin Center.

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.

In 1935 a fire destroyed much of the synagogue requiring much rebuilding.

At that time the congregation had about 100 member families.

After World War II, the Congregation Beth Israel had grown to approximately 300 families, had outgrown its facilities, and moved to a new location.

 

The Interim Years

In 1949, Congregation Beth Israel sold the property on Culver Street to the Southern Baptist Convention. 

The history of this unique building did not end with its sale.

It began new life as the home of Phoenix’s first Chinese-speaking Christian church.

Among the notable improvements introduced by the Chinese were the addition of large wooden pews in the sanctuary as well as a translation booth in the choir loft.  (These pews have subsequently been removed as part of the build’s renovation)

They also constructed a large block building to the rear of the Church that served as additional office space and classrooms.

From 1951-1981, the building served as a religious and social hub for Phoenix’s Chinese-American Community. 

In 1981, the property was deeded to a Spanish-speaking Baptist church, Iglesia Bautistia Central, under whose care it remained until purchased by the Arizona Jewish Historical Society in 2001-2002.

 

Restoration

Modern Interior of the Cutler-Plotkin Jewish Heritage Center

Modern Interior of the Cutler-Plotkin Jewish Heritage Center

In 2008, the Arizona Jewish Historical Society began its physical restoration of the site.

The project consisted of the rehabilitation of the historic synagogue and annex, as well as the addition of modern plumbing, electrical, and mechanical systems.

Walls were not just repainted, but torn down and replaced exactly as originally built.

Light fixtures were created to match the long-lost originals.

Windows are again like the originals.

In April 2010, the Cutler✡Plotkin Jewish Heritage Center officially opened to the public as a museum, educational center, and event venue.

At the time that the synagogue was originally built, there were approximately 120 Jews living in the Phoenix area.

Today, there are over 82,000 Jewish residents.

In recognition of its rich and diverse history, the Cutler✡Plotkin Jewish Heritage Center was voted by the public as a Phoenix Point of Pride in 2008.

 

For information about exhibits, programs, events and availability, contact:

Lawrence D. Bell, Executive Director

Cutler✡Plotkin Jewish Heritage Center

122 E. Culver Street, Phoenix AZ 85004

(602) 241-7870 * azjhs@aol.com

www.azjhs.org

 

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