Congregation Beth Israel (Houston)
The Heinen Theater
|Location||3517 Austin St., Midtown Houston, Texas|
|NRHP Reference #||84001826|
|Added to NRHP||March 1, 1984|
The congregation was founded in 1854 as an Orthodox Jewish kehilla and legally chartered in 1859. The Orthodox Beth Israel Congregation in Houston opened in a former house that had been converted to a synagogue. In 1874 the congregation voted to change their affiliation to Reform Judaism, sparking the foundation of Congregation Adath Yeshurun, now known as Congregation Beth Yeshurun. Hyman Judah Schachtel was a past rabbi.
Beth Israel's Franklin Avenue Temple building was completed in 1874. The temple was at Crawford Street at Franklin Street in what is now Downtown Houston. In 1908 the congregation moved into a new temple at Crawford at Lamar Street, in an area that was a Jewish community; as of 2011 The Grove at Discovery Green occupies the Downtown Houston site.
The Moderne style, 1924-built Austin Street building, designed by congregant Joseph Finger, was listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1984 and was awarded Recorded Texas Historical Landmark in 2009.
In 1943 Temple Beth Israel announced that people who espoused Zionist ideals were not allowed to be members, so Emanu-El was formed by people who disagreed with the decision. As of 1987 Beth Israel now accepts people with Zionist beliefs.
In the years leading to 1967, the Jewish community was moving to Meyerland. To follow the community, in 1967 the congregation moved to a new temple on North Braeswood Boulevard. The temple on Austin Street became the first home of Houston's High School for the Performing and Visual Arts and was renamed the Ruth Denney Theatre. When the high school moved to new quarters, the building became a performance venue for Houston Community College's Central Fine Arts division and was renamed the Heinen Theatre. The historic building is currently located in Midtown Houston.
The current synagogue at 5600 North Braeswood has a lobby with twelve needlepoints. The design of these needlepoints had inspiration in the Hadassah Medical Center's Chagall windows. The current synagogue facility had been expanded after its initial construction in order to house a Jewish school.
The cemetery owned by Congregation Beth Israel is the oldest Jewish cemetery in Houston.
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- Olitzky, Kerry M.; Raphael, Marc Lee. The American Synagogue: A Historical Dictionary and Sourcebook, Greenwood Press, June 30, 1996, p. 346
- Bell, p. 216.
- Anne Nathan Cohen, The Centenary History of Congregation Beth Israel of Houston (Houston, 1954)
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- Bell, p. 217.
- Gore, p. 8.
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- Bell, p. 218.
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