Temple De Hirsch Sinai: Seattle’s Reform Congregation, 1899 – Present

Temple De Hirsch Sinai


In 1899, Seattle’s Reform Jews established Temple De Hirsch, which they named after the nineteenth century French philanthropist, Baron Maurice De Hirsch.

Services were held at Jefferson Hall and Morris Hall.

The first president was Leo Kohn and the first Rabbi was Rabbi Theodore F. Joseph.

David Kaufman, who helped found Temple De Hirsch, donated the Sefer Torah that he purchased in New York for Congregation Ohaveth Sholem.


In 1899, Temple De Hirsch opened a Sunday School in order to prepare children for their Bar/Bat Mitzvah and Confirmation ceremonies.

The first teachers were Merle Degginger and Ida Gottstein.

Merle Degginger also founded the Ladies Auxiliary in 1899 with former members of Congregation Ohaveth Sholem.


In 1900, for $4,050, Temple De Hirsch purchased the land for their first building on the northwest corner of Marion Street and Boylston Avenue.


The First Building — 1901

In 1901, they began the building process.

At this time, Temple De Hirsch was 1,000 members strong.

Temple De Hirsch also established a choir.

In 1906, the congregation hired Rabbi Samuel Koch, who served as spiritual leader for 37 years.

Due to lack of funds, this building was not completed – only the basement and vestry were finished.

The Temple board decided to move locations and put their fundraising efforts into a larger building that could allow for the continued growth of the congregation.

Temple De Hirsch, Seattle, 1907

Temple De Hirsch, Seattle, 1907, #WS0180


The Second Building – 1908

In 1907, Temple De Hirsch began construction of their new, bigger synagogue at Union Street and Fifteenth Avenue.

In 1908, the dedication ceremony was held, presided over by Rabbi Koch.


In 1908, the temple library was established.  Today, the Temple De Hirsch Sinai Library contains over 10,000 books.


In 1909, Rabbi Koch started Temple Tidings, the Temple De Hirsch newsletter as a weekly publication.

Temple Tidings  is still published on a bi-monthly schedule.


Old Postcard of Temple De Hirsh, #WS7869

Old Postcard of Temple De Hirsh,

In 1910, Temple De Hirsch purchased the Hills of Eternity Cemetery from Congregation Ohaveth Sholem.

In 1920, the Temple Men’s Club was established.


In 1942, Rabbi Raphael Levine became the Rabbi of Temple De Hirsch. 

Rabbi Levine created a local television show called “Challenge” in which he brought together Catholic, Protestant and Jewish clergy to discuss various issues on people’s minds.

The show was successful and lasted for 14 years.


Samuel Goldfarb was the musical director of Temple De Hirsch from 1930-1967.

He composed numerous liturgical melodies and holiday songs such as the popular Shalom Aleichem tune and “I Have a Little Dreidel,” a Chanukah musical staple.


The Third Building – 1960

To accommodate growth, in 1960, Temple De Hirsch built a new synagogue building at 1511 E. Pike Street, on the corner of Sixteenth Avenue.

The building was designed by B. Marcus Priteca (who also designed Chevra Bikur Cholim and Congregation Herzl), John Dettie and John Peck.

Rabbi Earl Starr was the spiritual leader from 1970-2001.

In 1971, Temple De Hirsch merged with Temple  Sinai, the Bellevue Reform Congregation.

Since then, they are known as Temple De Hirsch Sinai and are made up of two campuses: the Seattle facility on Pike Street and the Bellevue facility at  3850 156th Avenue.

Since Rabbi Starr’s retirement in 2001, Temple De Hirsch Sinai has been led by Senior Rabbi Daniel A. Weiner.


For more information see:

  • Family of Strangers  and the current Temple De Hirsch Sinai website

Samantha Silver is our Curator for this Temple De Hirsch SinaiVirtual Exhibit.

Some pictures of the current buildings would be appreciated.