Beth Israel Congregation (Beaufort, South Carolina)
|Location||401 Scotts Street,
Beaufort, South Carolina,
|Architectural style||Colonial Revival|
Beth Israel Congregation (or Beth Israel Synagogue) is a historic Conservative synagogue located at 401 Scotts Street in Beaufort, South Carolina. Built in 1908, it is one of the few wooden synagogues in continued usage in the southeastern United States.
The first Jewish settler recorded as having lived in Beaufort, South Carolina was Peter Lavien, half-brother to Alexander Hamilton, who had a Jewish father though he was a practicing Anglican. Though the number of Jews remained sporadic and sparse until the 1880s, Jews always fared well in the small coastal town. With the mass immigration of Yiddish-speaking Eastern European Jews to Beaufort beginning in the 1880s, the Jewish population of the town grew to well over 30 families and soon prompted the need for a formal congregation. While the Jewish community in Beaufort predates the American Revolutionary War, its residents prayed informally in a number of locations before obtaining space in the town's Masonic Hall and in the Beaufort Arsenal. Granted a state charter in 1905, the congregation was formed to purchase the land near the arsenal that became the site for their synagogue on Scott Street. A number of members participated in the construction of the building, which was dedicated in ceremonies held on June 14, 1908, which were led by Rabbi George Solomon of Savannah, Georgia. Initially an Orthodox congregation, Beth Israel became a Conservative congregation in 1949.
The congregation celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2005. Cantor Sheldon Feinberg noted that "to keep any entity for this length of time, particularly a house of worship, demands a great deal of dedication on the part of the members." President Joann Schor stated that beyond celebrating the synagogue's centennial, their task was "figuring out how to keep going for another 100 years."
Beth Israel is still an active Conservative congregation today with approximately 70 member families at its original building, having declined to as little as 20 member families over the years. A historical marker honoring the synagogue was unveiled on January 12, 2014.
- Beaufort, South Carolina, Encyclopedia of Southern Jewish Communities. Accessed June 22, 2011.
- History of Temple Beth Israel, Beaufort, SC, Jewish Historical Society of South Carolina. Accessed June 22, 2011.
- Walsh, Sandra. "Local synagogue celebrates its 100th anniversary Saturday", The Beaufort Gazette, April 3, 2005. Accessed June 22, 2011.
- McNab, Matt. "Historical marker honoring Beaufort synagogue unveiled". TheState.com. Retrieved 13 January 2014.