Congregation Emanu El of San Bernardino/Redlands

Congregation Emanu El of San Bernardino/Redlands


Like most early settlements in the West, synagogues began in meeting rooms and leased halls before they were formally chartered and their structures were complete.

The history of Congregation Emanu El and the greater San Bernardino County Jewish Community traces its back to the early 1850’s, when Jacob Rich came to the San Bernardino Valley with a Torah scroll.

Services were held on the High Holy Days, beginning in 1851.

Another early settler, Marcus Katz, was allowed to open a general merchandise store by the governing Mormon community leaders.

Katz eventually became the Wells Fargo agent, County Treasurer, Notary Public, United States Commissary Agent, and a real estate speculator.

In 1858, the Mormon community of San Bernardino was recalled to Salt Lake City.

Three years later, on May 20, 1861, Marcus Katz was given land for a cemetery by Wm. A. Cowen, Benj. Barton, James A. Waters, and Geo. L. Tucker, all members of the early Mormon community.

The cemetery at 8th and Sierra Way was named Home of Eternity

In 1883, Katz turned over the Home of Eternity Cemetery to B’nai B’rith Paradise Lodge #237.

In 1890, the State of California began requiring religious institutions and social service agencies to be chartered.

The Jewish community, which had been meeting for more than three decades as Congregation Emanu El, filed its articles of incorporation with the State of California and was legally organized.

The charter was applied and granted by the State of California in 1891. A building fund followed.

Congregation Emanu El,

San Bernardino

Rudolph Anker, a founding member and original treasurer, became President of Congregation Emanu El in 1881, and remained president until 1915, with a brief two-year hiatus from 1890-1892, when I. R. Brunn served as President.

Ralph Greenhood reactivated an old building fund after the conclusion of World War I, and raised $10,000 more from the Jewish community to build the congregation’s first building.

It was not until the 1920’s that Congregation Emanu El had its building at 837 E Street.

In 1933, the Home of Eternity Cemetery was turned over to Congregation Emanu El by Paradise Lodge #237 B’nai B’rith. Today, it is designated State of California Historical Site.

In 1951-1952, the congregation acquired a lot at 35th and E Streets, originally part of the Thompson Bros. Poultry Farm, and built a new synagogue building.

An annex was added in 1959, and in 1966 the Rabbi Norman F. Feldheym Religious Education Center was added.

Congregation Emanu El grew from 1953 to 1999, eventually occupying a full city block in San Bernardino.

In 2008 the Congregation Emanu El sold its campus and relocated to Redlands in leased facilities.

In January 2013, the congregation moved into its new edifice at 1493 Ford Street in Redlands.

Congregation Emanu El San Bernardino, current building, 2017.

Rabbi Hillel Cohn,Served 19xx-2004 WS#4028

Rabbi Hillel Cohn,

Since the 1920’s Congregation Emanu El has had five senior Rabbis: Rabbi Solomon Margolis served briefly in the 1920’s; Rabbi Jacob Alkow served from 1932 to 1937,; Rabbi Norman F. Feldheym served from 1937 to 1971 and as rabbi emeritus from 1971 until his death in 1985; Rabbi Hillel Cohn served from 1963 until his retirement in 2001, when he became rabbi emeritus.


Rabbi Hillel Cohn is curator of this Congregation Emanu El of San Bernardino/Redlands exhibit.


Jews in the News

A Benevolent Society becomes a Congregation, San Bernardino, California — 1874

At the annual meeting of the Congregation Gemiluth Chesed held Sunday evening, Oct. 4, 1874, the following officers were elected for the ensuing term: President, Isaac H. Levy; Vice President, Lewis Jacobs; Treasurer, Louis Cam; Trustees — Simon Jackson, Abraham Wolff, Marcus Katz, Louis Ancker, William Crolik.

 —Weekly Argus, San Bernardino, October 12, 1874 (WSJHQ 11/2). The Chebra Gemeluth Chesed (Hebrew Benevolent Society) of San Bernardino, established in January 1861, had been terming itself a congregation by 1874. The present Congregation Emanu El evolved from an 1891 synagogue reorganization.