Quincy's Jewish Heritage: The B'nai Sholom Temple

The B'nai Sholom Temple in Quincy.

Fear of anti-Semitism in Europe in the 1840s led Jews, many of them German speaking, to leave Europe and come to the United States.

Some of those people settled in Quincy and created the first orthodox Jewish community and synagogue.

But a move to a more modern way of looking at the Jewish faith caused a split and led a group of Jews to create a reformed Jewish temple called B'nai Sholom.

Myron and Diane Kirsch have called the

B'nai Sholom temple

in Quincy their spiritual home for more than 50 years. It is where they were married and where they raised their children in the faith they so dearly love.

The story of the B'nai Sholom temple is intimately connected to the history of Quincy.

The corner stone of the temple was laid in 1869 and the temple dedication in 1870 was a citywide celebration.

"There were parades all through town with the mayor, alderman, all sorts of judges," Myron Kirsch said. " And they came here from the Baptist church they had rented."

Just before that dedication, the original synagogue, B'nai Abraham was destroyed by fire.

In 1871 ,after the dedication of B'nai Sholom, the two congregations decided to merge.

"Since 1871 this congregation thrived," Kirsch said. "It had, there were 500 members at that time and its just gone ever since."

1970 was a special year for the temple.

"All of the items that were put into the cornerstone, in 1970 we had a hundredth anniversary and those items are in the back of the sanctuary in a case," Myron Kirsch said. "So they are there for people to see."

Some of those items include a selection of newspapers from 1869, a book listing the names of the original members of the congregation and a selection of currency from the time including some 25 & 50 cent notes.

The temple continues to offer a spiritual home to Quincy's Jewish community like Quincian Carla Gordon.

"When I moved here a number of years ago, it was really important for me to find a place that I could have my children have sunday school, a place for them to prepare for their bar and bat mitzvahs and a place for me to go on Friday nights and socialize with the members of the Jewish community," Gordon said.

The fears of anti-Semitism that drove the city's original Jewish settlers from Europe, never took root in Quincy.

"There's never been any anti-Jewish feelings in the community," Kirsch said. "Quincy's a wonderful place."

The B'nai Sholom temple is the oldest Jewish temple in continuous use in Illinois.

And it is the second oldest reform congregation in continuous use west of the Appalachian mountains.

Learn more about the Jewish migration to Quincy