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A message from our Rabbi

It is extraordinary to be part of a Jewish congregation that is 150 years old, and I am delighted to invite you to explore the rich and varied opportunities that have been planned for us as we celebrate this Temple Beth-El milestone. For the next year, we will honor our history, celebrate the present and dream about the future through study, community gathering and festive celebration.

At Temple Beth-El we experience the beauty of Judaism in many ways: from uplifting prayer to inspiring music, a commitment to Jewish learning and a deep sense of purpose to make our world more holy and holy. Every person who joins us under our Dome is invited to find their place within the warm embrace of community and the continuity of generations.   

We can’t wait to share in this wonderful moment in the life of our congregational community with you. 

Rabbi Mara Nathan

150th Anniversary: Celebrate at These Upcoming Events

150th Anniversary: Past Events

Legacy Bus Tour: June 2, 2024

150th Anniversary Kick-Off Dinner: May 5, 2024

Get Involved!

At Temple Beth El, we are more than a religious institution, we are a community. The lives of our congregants are greatly enriched when all of its Members – from the very newest to our longest-standing members – are actively engaged in Temple life. Our hope is to engage families with deep ties to Temple as well as those who are new to the San Antonio community.

Temple Beth El’s 150th Birthday Celebration will offer many opportunities to get involved.  The success of every event and initiative relies on enthusiastic volunteers. Whether you have a little time or a lot of time – if you want to volunteer for a day, chair an event, or anything in between – we would love your help! This is also a wonderful opportunity to meet other Temple members. 

Please join our efforts today by signing up on the online volunteer form.  

Stories Celebrating our History

Temple Beth-El Through the Years

1850's
Jewish Community in SA begins

1850: A permanent Jewish community was formed in San Antonio.

1855: San Antonio Jews bought land for a cemetery, founding the Hebrew Benevolent Society the following year.

1860's
Mayer & Solomon Halff

1865: Mayer and Solomon Halff move to San Antonio and open a large dry goods operation. These brothers would go on to become 2 of the founding members of Temple Beth El.

1870's
TBE is officially founded

1870: The Ladies Hebrew Benevolent Society is formed.

1872: San Antonio Jews meet informally for prayer at Ruellman Hall.

1874: Temple Beth El is founded by 44 members at Odd Fellows Hall.

1880's
Mass Immigration to the US

1880: Mass immigration of Central and Eastern European Jews into San Antonio was taking place.

1881: A two-day Religious School is established (Shabbat and Sunday).

1890's
Rabbi Samuel Marks

1897: TBE hires Rabbi Samuel Marks, who helped lead the congregation through a period of tremendous growth. Rabbi Marks continued to serve for 23 years.

1897: The cities first Zionist Organization is formed.

1900's
The 2nd TBE Temple

1903: TBE gets a new home, as the congregation had outgrown the first building.

1907: Beth-El has 120 members, up from just 33 members 20 years prior.

1907: Council of Jewish Women is formed and the majority of the early members were from Temple Beth El.

1910's
Jewish groups are formed

1915: San Antonio Jews founded a chapter of the Labor Zionist group Poale Zion.

1917: A new chapter of Haddassah is formed.

1918: Rabbi Marks draws ire from the Temple Board for speaking out against prohibition in the local newspaper.

1920's
Rabbi Ephraim Frisch

1923: Ephraim Frisch became Beth-El’s rabbi in 1923, leading the congregation for the next two decades.

1924: By 1924, Beth-El, with over 300 member families, had outgrown its temple, and began to raise money for a new building.

1927: Dedicated in 1927, Beth El’s new (and current) synagogue could seat over 1200 people in its sanctuary.

1930's
TBE Grows

1930: The Temple’s Passover service is broadcast on WOAI Radio.

Sunday School Enrollment is at 210.

1938: Dr. David Jacobson is hired as an Associate Rabbi.

Rabbi Frisch was a lightning rod for controversy. He criticized compulsory Bible reading in the schools, urged an American boycott of the Berlin Olympics, sympathized with the city's underpaid pecan shellers, and denounced the city's squalid slums.

1940's
Rabbi Jacobson

1942: Rabbi Frisch retires and Rabbi Jacobson takes the helm. Rabbi Jacobson would lead TBE until 1976.

Under Rabbi Jacobson’s leadership, Beth-El moved away from classical Reform Judaism, embracing such traditions as Hebrew instruction and the bar mitzvah.

1945: Membership is at 599 members.

1950's
A Time of Change

1950: Rabbi Jacobson used his prestige and moral authority to assure a peaceful desegregation of San Antonio during the civil-rights struggle of the 1950s.

TBE provided meeting facilities for such groups as the Hebrew Community Center, Council of Jewish Women, Hadassah, B’nai B’rith, USO-JWB, and more.

1960's
Oppenheimer Chapel

1961: The new Henry and Hattie Kempner Oppenheimer Memorial Chapel is dedicated.

Rabbi Jacobson was a persistent advocate of racial desegregation throughout the city.

Jesse Wulfe was drafted to be the Temple’s Head Usher, a position he held among many others at Temple, for over 40 years.

1970's
Rabbi Samuel Stahl

1976: Rabbi Jacobson retires.

1976: Rabbi Samuel Stahl takes the helm, and would go on to lead the congregation for 26 years.

1979: Rabbi Melanie Aron, the first female Rabbi to work in Texas, was the rabbinical intern for Temple Beth-El in 1979.

1980's
TBE Gets a Renovation

1984: The Jewish community in San Antonio grows to 9000 people.

Major renovations to the Temple were accomplished, including the addition of the Barshop Auditorium.

1990's
Rabbi Barry Block begins working at Temple

1992: Rabbi Barry Block begins service to the congregation.

Rabbi Stahl was deeply committed to enhancing interfaith relations. He is the first Jewish leader to receive religious leadership awards from the Texas Conference of Churches and the San Antonio Community of Churches.

2000's
Rabbi Stahl becomes Rabbi Emeritus

2002: Rabbi Block assumes the position of head Rabbi and was known for his interfaith advocacy and promotion of immigration and LGBT+ rights.

2009: Temple Beth-El received the Irving J. Fain Award for Social Action from the Religious Action Center for our “Darfur Calls” program.

2010's
Rabbi Mara Nathan

2014: Rabbi Mara Nathan takes on the role of Senior Rabbi. She is the first woman to serve as senior Rabbi of a major congregation in the State of Texas. 

2017: TBE holds an interfaith community candlelight vigil in response to the violence in Charlottesville wherein the vigil’s attendance exceeded capacity.

2019: Temple Beth-El received the Union for Reform Judaism’s Belin Award for Audacious Hospitality for our NEFESH program. Additionally, Temple Beth-El joined the Religious Action Center Brit Olam – Covenant of the World.

2020's - Present Day
TBE Today

2023: Temple Beth-El’s bylaws were updated and the Board of Trustees adopted our inaugural Code of Ethics.

Temple Beth-El has transitioned the ACT Committee into Beyond the Dome, a year-long educational series for the congregation.

Our congregation today houses nearly 1000 member families.