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Jewish Date

Monday, 21 April 2014
Yom Sheini, 21 Nisan 5774
History of Temple Emanu-El Print E-mail

San Jose's First Jewish Congregation

Temple circa 1920

Temple Emanu-El is a member of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ). As one of the Bay Area's first Jewish organizations, it enjoys a long and rich history:

1861 Congregation Established: Originally called the San Jose Bickur Cholim Society (visiting the sick), Temple Emanu-El was established in the mid-1800's. Founders worked to "assist the needy and sick and for the burial of the dead for furtherance of our Holy Religion and Language." Click here for a digitized copy of the original letter requesting the purchase of the Temple cemetery and here for pictures of the original synagogue meeting places, before the first Temple was dedicated.

1870 First Building Dedicated: Located on the corner of Third and San Antonio Streets, the first building served as the center of Jewish life in San Jose. Click here for a picture of the original building.

1940 Fire Destroyed Building: Torahs, the Ner Tamid which glows in the sanctuary, and the stained glass windows of the chapel were rescued from the tragic fire. These historical artifacts enhance the beauty of our current facility. Click here for a picture of firefighters heroically trying to save our Temple.

1948 Current Building Dedicated: Our University Avenue facility, where the congregation still resides, was dedicated in 1948. Members renamed our congregation Temple Emanu-El, meaning "God be with us." Click here for a picture of the groundbreaking ceremony of the new facility a digitized copy of the original invitation to that ceremony. Here is a photo of the original site as construction was first undertaken.

1950's & 1960's Religious School Built: Temple Emanu-El built a three-story religious school to accommodate the area's growing Jewish community. In 1976 it was named The Rabbi Joseph and Rosalie Gitin Religious School, in honor the congregation's esteemed rabbi and his wife.

1986 Temple Emanu-El's 125th Anniversary: The synagogue is honored by the White House with best wishes sent via a personal letter from President Ronald Reagan. The synagogue also receives a congratulatory letter from Governor George Deukmejian and a significant notice in the National Congressional Record.

2005 Temple Emanu-El City Commendation: Temple Emanu-El and Senior Rabbi Dana Magat were honored by the City of San Jose with a commendation for our pioneering support and twinning relationship with Temple Emanu-El in Odessa Ukraine. More details on our Torah and computer infrastructure donation to this congregation may be found in this article from Reform Judaism Magazine and this article from the JTA.

2000's Growth Continues: Richness of Temple Emanu-El's past has helped shape its presence as a strong Jewish force in the Greater San Jose area. As the founders of Bickur Cholim envisioned, the congregation continues to grow. Intertwining the traditional and modern, it meets the needs of an ever-changing community.

For a complete history of Temple Emanu-El's role in San Jose throughout the last 145+ years, please click here.