Congregation Beth Israel (San Diego)

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Beth Israel
AffiliationReform Judaism
LeadershipActing Senior Rabbi Arlene Bernstein, Cantor
Assistant Rabbi Jeremy Gimbel
Rabbi Emeritus Michael Berk
Location9001 Towne Centre Drive
MunicipalitySan Diego
CountryUnited States
Geographic coordinates32°52′15″N 117°12′23″W / 32.870901°N 117.206322°W / 32.870901; -117.206322Coordinates: 32°52′15″N 117°12′23″W / 32.870901°N 117.206322°W / 32.870901; -117.206322

Congregation Beth Israel' (Hebrew: בית ישראל‎) is a Reform synagogue located at 9001 Towne Centre Drive in San Diego, California. Formally incorporated in 1887, Beth Israel traces its roots back to 1861. It is San Diego's largest and oldest Jewish congregation.[2][3][4]


Jews first came to San Diego in 1850, and organized High Holiday services each year. In 1861, led by Marcus Schiller, they organized a congregation called "Adath Yeshurun". In early 1887 they formally incorporated under the name "Beth Israel".[3]

Temple Beth Israel first synagogue building in Heritage Park in San Diego's Old Town area.

Beth Israel's first building still stands in Heritage Park, which is adjacent to Old Town San Diego State Historic Park. The wooden building was erected in 1889 at Second Avenue and Beech Street, in the wake of a boom in economic activity and population that resulted from the November 1885 completion of the California Southern Railroad connecting San Diego to the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad in Barstow, California. Services were first held there on September 25, 1889. One of the oldest synagogue buildings in the American West,[5] it was used by the Congregation until 1926, when the Congregation moved to its second, larger building at Third and Laurel.[3] At the time the congregation numbered around 60 families.[3]

The Third and Laurel site occupied a full city block, and included a number of structures. In addition to the synagogue building, there was an adjacent social hall, a school building, and a number of small apartments. When the congregation moved in early 2001, it retained the school and social hall.[3]

Beth Israel purchased a 3 acres (12,000 m2) lot in University City in 1993. Construction on new facilities there began in January 2000 and were dedicated in October 2001. The site comprises five buildings totaling more than 65,000 square feet (6,000 m2).[3]

Jonathan Stein, who was Senior Rabbi at the synagogue, became Senior Rabbi at Temple Shaaray Tefila on New York City's Upper East Side.[6]

Current status[edit]

Beth Israel has over 2,000 members and nearly 1,100 households, making it San Diego's largest and oldest Jewish congregation.[2] The clergy includes Acting Senior Rabbi/Cantor Arlene Bernstein, and Assistant Rabbi Jeremy Gimbel. In June 2019, Senior Rabbi Michael Berk became Beth Israel's Rabbi Emeritus.


  1. ^ [1] Archived June 22, 2018, at, Synagogue website, About CBI. Retrieved June 22, 2018.
  2. ^ a b About CBI introduction Archived November 3, 2005, at, Synagogue website, About CBI. Retrieved August 1, 2014.
  3. ^ a b c d e f History of CBI Archived February 16, 2006, at, Synagogue website, About CBI. Retrieved January 20, 2010.
  4. ^ Eroles, Maricarmen. "San Diego's Oldest Jewish Temple Will Get Face Lift", Los Angeles Times, July 16, 1989, p. Metro 1.
  5. ^ Schwartz, Henry. "Temple Beth Israel", The Journal of San Diego History, Fall 1981, Volume 27, Number 4.
  6. ^ "Our History and Vision". Archived from the original on January 24, 2013. Retrieved January 7, 2013.

External links[edit]