TBS MISSION STATEMENT: The mission of Temple Beth Shalom is to provide spiritual, educational, cultural, and social opportunities to its membership in order to foster growth and perpetuate Jewish values and practices.
TBS VISION STATEMENT:
TBS is a congregation whose culture of warmth, welcome and openness is reflected in its physical space, its spirituality, and its connectedness:
SPIRITUAL: We recognize that spirituality is a very personal, yet very communal concept, requiring respect for tradition and healing as well as inclusivity and relevance.
EDUCATIONAL: We seek to maintain our status as a Framework for Excellence school while creating a program that supports each individual’s needs for learning.
CULTURAL: We endeavor to expose our congregation to the rich and diverse heritage of our Jewish history, politics, foods, intellect, music, and art in the contexts of past, present and future.
SOCIAL: We aspire to create a community which is glad to come together for life cycle events, shared social interests, social learning opportunities, and the building of our congregational life.
TIKKUN OLAM: We strive to create an understanding of Tikkun Olam which starts with ourselves, our family and our Jewish community and expands to include the Spokane community , our nation, and the world at large.**
*Affiliated with the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism*
The first Jewish settlement in Spokane dates back to 1879. The first Jewish services in Spokane were held on Rosh Hashanah in 1885 in a private home.
The Legacy Congregations of Temple Beth Shalom
Temple Emanu-El, a reform Temple founded by German Jews who had settled in Spokane, was incorporated on September 16, 1891. A newly erected synagogue, located at Third and Madison, was dedicated on September 14, 1892. The growing congregation built a larger synagogue in 1920. One of the leaders of the United States Reform Movement, Dr. Stephen Wise, laid the cornerstone. (This building still stands at Eighth and Walnut and is currently the home of Plymouth Congregational Church.)
In the teens and 20’s, when Spokane’s Jewry numbered about 1,500, Temple Emanu-El’s membership included close to 300 families. The congregation had a very active Sunday School program and added a weekday Hebrew class sometime after World War II. In 1940, Temple Emanu-El’s Sisterhood originated the Annual Kosher Dinner, a popular community event that continues to thrive today at Temple Beth Shalom.
The last two rabbis who served Temple Emanu-El were: Rabbi Plotkin, who retired in Phoenix, Arizona; and Rabbi Goldman.
In 1901, a small group of Orthodox Jewish settlers formed a congregation of 22 members in Spokane. Services were held at the Odd Fellows Hall on First Avenue. In 1905, the congregation built a two-story synagogue at Fourth and Adams and called it Keneseth Israel. Students attended Keneseth Israel’s Hebrew School four days a week, two hours a day, after public school. By the 1920’s, the congregation hired their first “rabbi”, a man named Mr. Schwartz, who was trained as a shoet and mohel.
The last two rabbis at Keneseth Israel were: Rabbi Gilbert Kollin, who went on to serve Hollywood Beth El in Hollywood, California; and Rabbi Wilfred Solomon who went on to serve Congregation Beth Israel in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
By the 1960’s, both Temple Emanu-El and Keneseth Israel had experienced a decline in membership. The two congregations decided to join forces in 1966, forming Temple Beth Shalom as a Liberal Conservative Synagogue affiliated with what is now the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. While Temple Beth Shalom was under construction, services were held at the Unitarian Church. The synagogue offices were in the old Post Theater building. The Keneseth Israel building was demolished when Interstate 90 was built. Temple Emanu-El was sold and is now the home of Plymouth Congregational Church.
Some items from the old buildings were saved for our current building. The stained glass which houses the Ark was constructed out of the stained glass windows from Temple Emanu-El. The menorahs near the Ark are from Keneseth Israel as are the seats in the chapel.
Since the merger, the following men have been rabbis at Temple Beth Shalom: Michael Goldstein, our present rabbi, who moved here from New Jersey. Jacob Izakson, who came from Fort Worth, Texas; Rabbi Robert P. Tabak, who went on to serve as Assistant Director of the Board of Rabbis of Greater Philadelphia-Jewish Chaplaincy Service; Rabbi Yizhak Nadler, who went on to serve Congregation Ner Tamid in San Francisco; Rabbi Eugene G. Gottesman, alav hashalom, who passed away in 1992, in Desert Hot Springs, California; and Rabbi Isaac Celnik, who went on to serve B’nai Israel in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Temple Beth Shalom Today
Today, Temple Beth Shalom (TBS) is a growing congregation serving 255 Jewish households in the greater Spokane area, as well as families from southern British Columbia, northeastern and southeastern Washington State, northern Idaho, and western Montana.
With an enrollment of 140 students, the Temple Beth Shalom Midrasha serves children from pre-school through high school. Gan Rachel preschool (“Rachel’s Garden” named in honor of Rachel Erin Levitt, aleha hashalom, who passed away in 1985) meets once a week for children ages 3-5. Five classes of Hebrew School meet for two hours each week to augment religious training as well as to prepare students for Bar and Bat Mitzva. Midrasha High School classes for post Bar and Bat Mitzva students are held weekly. TBS also sponsors an active schedule of Adult Education classes and workshops. TBS’s newly constructed Cowen Education Center was dedicated in September 1998. Spokane Jewish Youth includes involvement in United Synagogue Youth (U.S.Y.), and Kadima Youth Organization (K.Y.O.) Many of our young people attend Camp Solomon Schechter, a regional Conservative Movement summer camp, in Olympia, Washington.
Every March, the Annual Kosher Dinner brings together the entire TBS membership in a mammoth public relations and fundraising effort to welcome approximately 2,500 people from the larger Spokane community into the synagogue for a traditional Jewish meal and Jewish entertainment.