The Early Years of the Jewish Community of Spokane, Washington

The first Jewish settlers of Spokane, Washington in the 1880’s were the Lowenbergs, the Biros, B. Scheeline, Simon Berg, and Isaac Baum.


Simon Berg opened his general merchandise store in 1879, when the town was in its infancy.

A number of other Jewish pioneers arrived in the next decade.


In 1984, Spokane boasted of the following Jewish merchants:

  • The largest shoe store belonged to M. & S. Schulein,
  • The leading merchant tailor was L. Bernheime.
  • The largest wholesale liquor dealers were D. Holzman & Co. and Harry L. Jackson.
  • Seller & Co featured crockery.
  • Kellner had a fine dry goods store.
  • W. Siegal had the largest cigar store.
  • The Chicago Clothing Store was the best and largest in town.



In politics there were two Jewish members of the County Central Committee: Mr. S. R. Stern (attorney) and Mr. D. Schiller.



The first noted Jewish services were held in the home of S. Auerbach, in 1885

The first synagogue in the state, Spokane’s Temple Emanu-El, was formed in 1890.

At its first meeting, J. W. Toklas was made Temporary Chairman and Hugo Fischer acted as Secretary.

Others present were H. Hanauer, A. W. Voorsanger, M. Zetosch, G. Klawans, B. Scheeline, N. Phillipps, A. L. Barman, Sol Oppenheimer, Albert Heller, B. Solomon, and I. Baum.

At the second meeting the following “Official” officers were elected: J.W. Toklas, President; Ben Solomon, vice-President; A. W. Voorsanger, Treasurer; Arthur Benjamin, Secretary; J. Kellner, A. Heller, N. Phillips, Trustees.

At this time the Board of Trustees decided to erect a building at a cost, not to exceed $12,000.

Original Temple Emanu-El of Spokane, WS#0170

Original Temple Emanu-El of Spokane,  WS#0170

Temple Emanu-El was dedicated just before the High Holy Days, of 1892, at 3rd & Madison, the first synagogue structure in Washington.

Membership was about individuals and families.

Mr. L. Reubens, Sam Bayles, L. Katz, I. Baum and a few others paid off all remaining debt at the time of dedication – during a special fair and celebration.


The officers of the congregation at that time were: S. Bayles, President; H. Hanauer, vice-President; L. Reubens, Treasurer; Arthur Benjamin, Secretary; M. Oppenheimer, D. Epstein and Julius Green, Trustees.

The original teachers in the Sunday School were Mr. S. Katz, Mr. J. Munter, Miss Phillips and Miss Gertie Solomon.


Temple Emanu-El soon boasted a Ladies Auxiliary and Benevolent Society.

Mrs. B. Solomon, President; Mrs Farber, vice-President; J. R. Grinsfelder, Treasurer.


Rabbi Emanuel Schreiber served the congregation from 1891 to 1892.

Rabbi Emanuel Schreiber, #WS0804

Rabbi Emanuel Schreiber,

Rabbi Schreiber was trained at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati and had previously been the Rabbi of Temple Emanu-El in Denver, then the second Rabbi to lead Congregation B’nai B’rith in Los Angeles. (Now Wilshire Boulevard Temple.)

Rabbi Schreiber delivered lectures attended by both Jews and Christians.






Rabbi Rudolph Farber served the congregation starting in 1897.


Rabbi Rudolf Farber, #WS0169

Rabbi Rudolf Farber,


The original structure was used until a new temple was built at 8th Avenue and Walnut Street in the 1920s.


For more information, see the following articles in our quarterly journal: Western States Jewish History:

  • The Up and the Down of Jewish Activity in Spokane, 1891-1894,” Western States Jewish History, Vol XI, #4, July 1979.
  • Spokane Jewry in 1897,” Western States Jewish History, Vol.XXII, #3, 1990

Other Source:


Temple Beth Shalom, from merger of Temple Emanu-El and Keneseth Israel

Temple Beth Shalom, from merger of Temple Emanu-El and Keneseth Israel

David Epstein is our Curator for this Early Spokane Virtual Exhibit.

Any more information about the early Jewish Pioneers of Spokane would be greatly appreciated