The first synagogue in the state, Spokane's Temple Emanu-El, is dedicated on September 14, 1892.

  • By Jim Kershner
  • Posted 5/02/2008
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 8608

On September 14, 1892, the first synagogue in Washington is dedicated by Spokane's Temple Emanu-El, a Reform Jewish congregation organized two years earlier. This makes the frame building at 3rd Avenue and Madison Street the first synagogue in the state, but just barely. Seattle's Ohaveth Sholum will be dedicated just four days later.

Spokane had a thriving Jewish community since its earliest days. Simon Berg opened up a general merchandise store in 1879, when the town was in its infancy. A number of other Jewish pioneers arrived in the next decade. The first Jewish service was held in a private home in 1885.

In 1890, the Jewish community met and organized a congregation, which it named Congregation Emanu-El. In 1891, it hired Emanuel Schreiber as its first rabbi and soon raised funds to build a house of worship at 3rd Avenue and Madison Street.

The small frame building cost about $3,500, which was raised through donations. On September 14, 1892, the Reform Temple Emanu-El was dedicated. This temple held the distinction as the first synagogue in the state, because Seattle's much larger Ohaveth Sholum wasn't dedicated until September 18, 1892.

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

An Orthodox synagogue, Keneseth Israel Synagogue, opened in Spokane in 1909. The Jewish population of Spokane was estimated at 2,000 in 1912.


Sources: N. W. Durham, History of the City of Spokane and Spokane Country (Spokane-Chicago-Philadelphia: S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1912), 579-581; Molly Cone, Howard Droker and Jacqueline Williams, Family of Strangers: Building a Jewish Community in Washington State (Seattle and London: Washington State Historical Society, in association with the University of Washington Press, 2003). 
Note: This essay was revised on September 12, 2013.

Related Topics:   Firsts | Jews in Washington | Religion

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