Congregation B’nai Israel: The First Synagogue in Salt Lake City, Utah

Congregation B’nai Israel


In 1864, the Hebrew Benevolent Society was founded in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Yom Kippur services were first held in a private home.

In 1866, services moved to the Masonic Hall, and in 1867 they were held at the Seventies Hall.

In 1869, Brigham Young offered the Jewish community land for the purpose of constructing a Jewish cemetery.

Congregation B’nai Israel was established in 1873.

By 1876, there were about 40 families in the Salt Lake City Jewish community.


The First Building – 1878-1889

In 1878, Congregation B’nai Israel began talking about constructing a synagogue building.

In 1881, the congregation purchased land on the corner of  First West and Third South Streets.  A brick school house was built first.

In 1883, construction on the synagogue building was finished.

Congregation B'nai Israel

Congregation B’nai Israel – the first synagogue building.

Services were in the Orthodox tradition until 1882, when the congregation decided to move toward a more Reform style.

Rabbi Leon Strauss helped the congregants transition from one style of observance to another. In 1885, the transition was complete.

The Orthodox members left Congregation B’nai Israel and created Congregation Montefiore.

Congregation Montefiore met in congregants’ homes until 1902, when Morris Levy donated land at 355 South Third East. Isadore Morris donated $150 in gold dust for the construction of a synagogue building.

Congregation Montefiore came to identify as a Conservative synagogue.

Congregation Montefiore, SLC

Congregation Montefiore, SLC

The Second Building – 1889-1970

In 1889, Congregation B’nai Israel sold its first building and began building a new synagogue at Fourth East between Second and Third South.

The synagogue building was designed by Frederick Auerbach’s nephew, Philip Meyer, and supervised by architect Henry Monheim in the Romanesque revival style, reminiscent on the Fasanenstrasse Synagogue in Berlin.

Most of the founding congregants were German by birth.

The second building was dedicated in 1891.

Rabbi Moses P. Jacobson became the spiritual leader and helped the congregation more than double in size.


Merging Congregations – 1970

In 1970, Congregation B’nai Israel and Congregation Montefiore decided to merge.

Their union was completed in 1972, with the creation of Congregation Kol Ami, which serves both Reform and Conservative families.

Congregation Kol Ami continues to thrive at 2425 Heritage Way under the spiritual leadership of Rabbi Ilana Schwartzman.

Kol Ami Synagogue in Salt Lake City, Utah

Samantha Silver is curator for this Congregation B’nai Israel/Kol Ami exhibit.