The first Jews (merchants) arrived in Palm Beach county in 1900, four years after the railroad tracks extended to Miami. At that time, Jews were discriminated against in Palm Beach. Henry Flagler, the area developer, implemented land sale restrictions to prevent Jews from moving into the area. However, Jews moved into the county and settled on land that wasn’t restricted.
In 1924, six Jewish families started Temple Beth Israel in a small, domed white structure. The building has a second floor mezzanine and a small dome in the front. It has a hollow clay tile roof, Pine floor, thick plaster walls, stained glass windows, and cypress beams. In 1930, Carl N. Herman became the Reform temple’s first full-time rabbi. Within a few years, the congregation split into the Reform Temple Israel and the Conservative Temple Beth El. Temple Israel stayed in the building but Beth El moved to Fern Street.
In the years following WWI, the building became too small for the growing congregation and the congregation moved into a larger building. The old structure became a Catholic church, a Greek Orthodox church and then a missionary Baptist church.
The developer, WCI Communities, bought the site where it stood in 2004. The structure was designated a historic building in 2005 and efforts were made to find someone to take care of it. In 2012, the structure was loaded on a large dolly and moved about a mile north, from 2020 Broward Ave. to its new home at 2815 N. Flagler Drive. It is now once again a Jewish synagogue.
I visited the small synagogue few times since it was renovated. It is a beautiful small synagogue. It is so welcoming that it is impossible not to fall in love with it. The relocation of the structure is shown in the short video below.
Today, there are more than fifty synagogues in Palm Beach county. It is the most Jewish jurisdiction in the world outside Israel.
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