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Celebrating 150 years

Our Celebratory Events

april, 2024

Stories Celebrating our History

Temple Beth-El Through the Years

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

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

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

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) 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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’nair B’rith, USO-JWB, and more

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

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

TBE Get's 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

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

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.

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. Together with Rabbi Marina Yergin, Temple Beth-El remains one of the few Reform temples with all female clergy.

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