Spokane congregations transfer the Torah scrolls from Keneseth Israel Synagogue to the Temple Emanu-El and merge to form Temple Beth Shalom on July 24, 1966.

  • By Jim Kershner
  • Posted 7/04/2008
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 8642
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On July 24, 1966, the Torah scrolls from the Keneseth Israel Synagogue in Spokane are transferred via motorized procession to the Temple Emanu-El in Spokane as part of the formal and symbolic merger of the two congregations into a new congregation called Temple Beth Shalom. The merged congregation embarks on a construction project and moves into its new synagogue on Spokane's South Hill in 1969. Temple Beth Shalom becomes the center of the city's Jewish life and community.

Two Into One

For many decades, Spokane had two Jewish congregations -- the Temple Emanu-El, a Reform congregation established in 1890, and the Keneseth Israel congregation, an Orthodox congregation (later to become Conservative) established in 1901.

Their merger was sparked by the Interstate 90 freeway project in the 1960s. The Keneseth Israel Synagogue was in the path of the freeway and scheduled to be razed. Members of both congregations met and agreed to merge and build a new, modern synagogue on Spokane's affluent South Hill.

The transfer of the Keneseth Israel's Torah scroll and the ornate Ark of the Covenant to Temple Emanu-El symbolized the merger and also signified that the new congregation would have a Conservative affiliation. The new synagogue, Temple Beth Shalom, was finished in 1969 and remains Spokane's major Jewish congregation.

Sources: Hazel Barnes, "Temple to Transfer Scrolls," Spokane Chronicle, July 23, 1966; "Two Jewish Groups Merge to Form Temple Beth Shalom," Spokesman-Review, April 5, 1966; "Simplicity Marks Temple," Spokane Chronicle, April 4, 1969.

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