Temple Beth-El (Pensacola, Florida)
The Temple Beth-El on Palafox Street
|Location||Pensacola, Florida, United States|
|Architectural style||Art Deco|
- For other temples called Beth-El see Temple Beth-El (disambiguation).
The first Jews who migrated to northwest Florida originally stopped at Milton, twenty miles to the east, because Milton was a national hub for lumber production and distribution in the South (the first Jews to the area were skilled in lumber production; they came from heavily wooded areas in what is now southern Germany). Sensing more business opportunities to the west, a congregation settled in Pensacola and founded a Reform temple after forming in 1876. Many of the lumber workers in Milton did not follow the congregation, and eventually started a smaller Jewish community in Okaloosa County when lumber opportunities dried up. The male members of Beth-El's first congregation consisted largely of businessmen and tavern owners.
Temple Beth-El is now in its third building, still in its same spot on 800 North Palafox Street. The current building, designed in the 1930s, is an example of Art Deco architecture, which was prominent in Florida at the time.
Today, many members of the current congregation are descendants of the men who founded the temple over 125 years ago. Immigrants from Eastern Europe, Israel, and the Caucasus eventually settled in Pensacola and became part of the congregation as well. Beth-El is unique today in that a large number of the congregation consists of Jews who converted from other faiths.
Starting in 1962, Paula Ackerman, the first woman to perform rabbinical functions in the United States, served the congregation at Beth-El. A Pensacola native, Beth-El was Mrs. Ackerman's home temple and she was asked to fill in until a suitable replacement was found in 1963.
- Paula Ackerman, both as a child and later serving the congregation as a rabbi.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Temple Beth-El (Pensacola, Florida).|
- A History of Temple Beth-el, Pensacola, Florida 1876-1990, By Janel D. Hendrix, Published by Trent's Prints, 2004
- American Jewish Year Book, Jewish Publication Society of America, Published by American Jewish Committee, 1907, p. 150
- Temple Beth-El history