The Rockdale Temple, K.K. Bene Israel, (19th century spelling K K. Benai Israel) is the oldest Jewish congregation west of the Allegheny Mountains, the oldest congregation in Ohio, the second oldest Ashkenazi congregation in the United States and one of the oldest synagogues in the United States. It is located in Amberley Village, a suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio and is easily accessible from both I-71 (exit 14) and I-75 (exit 10) via the Ronald Reagan Highway (Cross County).
The congregation was founded in 1824 in Cincinnati, then a frontier town. On January 18, 1824, the Congregation Bene Israel was formally organized; those in attendance were Solomon Buckingham, David I. Johnson, Joseph Jonas, Samuel Jonas, Jonas Levy, Morris Moses, Phineas Moses, Simeon Moses, Solomon Moses and Morris Symonds. The congregants were primarily Spanish and Portuguese Jews who had immigrated from England. On January 8, 1830, the Ohio General Assembly granted the congregation a charter.
The leaders recognized the need for a synagogue and efforts were made to raise funds for a building. In 1836 the first home at Sixth and Broadway was consecrated. In 1852 another synagogue was built on the same site. The 1852 building was sold in 1870 to the Allen Temple AME Church.
On 27 August 1869, the congregation dedicated a magnificent building at Eighth and Mound Streets.
Since 1969, the congregation has worshiped in a new synagogue at 8501 Ridge Road in Amberley Village, Ohio. Dave Brubeck's cantata The Gates of Justice (1969) had its first performance at the new Rockdale Temple.
For thirty-one years readers or cantors conducted services. In 1855, Dr. Max Lilienthal was elected as the first permanent rabbi. Under Dr. Lilienthal’s leadership many reforms were introduced into the previously orthodox service and the congregation was actively involved in the beginnings of the Reform movement. Since that time there have been nine rabbis; Rabbi Sigma Faye Coran now serves the congregation.
Throughout the long history of the congregation distinguished rabbis have relied on remarkably able and committed lay leadership. Women have contributed notably, serving as presidents of the congregation as well as assistant rabbis. Rabbis and members have participated actively in communal activities in the Jewish and general community.
The congregation today
A progressive spirit and recognition of the need for change and growth characterize the goals of the congregation. There is outreach to a diverse membership. In addition to the religious school, the congregation participates in the Cincinnati Reform Jewish High School. The Sisterhood (Women of Reform Judaism), the Brotherhood and the youth groups facilitate activities which enhance congregational life. Various adult education programs are offered with many issues addressed in evening classes. The human experience is the constant in the history of K. K. Bene Israel. In 1969, the congregation built a new Synagogue at 8501 Ridge Road in Amberley Village, Ohio.
Rockdale Temple has been at the forefront of Reform Judaism in America and was one of the founding congregations of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.
During its 182 year history, nine rabbis have been its spiritual leaders. Rabbi Sigma Faye Coran has served the congregation since 2004.
Its rabbi, educator, staff and lay-leaders help to guide and teach congregants to create personally fulfilling expressions of their Judaism. It offers a choice of programming for the needs of its diverse congregation and emphasizes the value of lifelong learning.
- Fine, John S. (May 23, 2007). "Jews of Cincinnati". Arcadia Publishing. p. 7. Retrieved 2013-05-27.
- Congregation Bene Israel (Cincinnati, Ohio)Records
- Illustrated Cincinnati: A Pictorial Hand-book of the Queen City, by Daniel J. Kenny - Cincinnati (Ohio) – 1875, p. 107
- Walter E. Langsam Biographical Dictionary of Architects Architectural Foundation of Cincinnati
- Dave Brubeck: The Gates of Justice
- K.K. Bene Israel Official Site
- Rockdale Temple, circa 1910
- Records, 1884-1967
- Rockdale Temple