Congregation Beth Israel
First Jewish Congregation in Texas - Established 1854
In the Beginning…
In the early 1800’s, Jewish settlers came to this rough-hewn land along the Gulf Coast, some with Stephen F. Austin and others on their own, to seek a better life. Despite the often-inhospitable weather, living conditions, and swarms of mosquitoes, these pioneers found great promise in this verdant, bayou laden land. In 1844, these early settlers decided to put down roots and established the first Jewish cemetery in Texas, drawn together by their common need for a sanctified burial ground. Although small in numbers, these Jewish pioneers united in the mitzvah to provide a fitting final resting place for their loved ones. To learn the whole story, read the chapters below, and when you are at Beth Israel, make time to stroll the hallways for a pictorial review of the people and events that shaped the future of the congregation.
Beth Israel History Walls
You can follow the remarkable chapters of Congregation Beth Israel’s history as they unfold on our own History Walls in the Karff and Schachtel Hallways that lead to the Sanctuary. From its pioneer beginnings more than 150 years ago through today, follow our fascinating timeline to see what was happening here at home and across the world. You’ll see pictures and learn the history behind each of our four congregational homes, along with pictures of our earliest founding members and a century of Confirmation pictures, to artifacts from a 1908 cookbook to a mezuzah that flew to the moon! Young and old, you’ll discover something new and fun about Beth Israel, Houston, and the way we lived every time you visit.
Chapter 1: Hebrew Congregation of the City of Houston 1844-1908