Our history begins when a dozen German families immigrated to the Tri-City area (Davenport, Iowa and Moline and Rock Island, Illinois) to live among 500 other pioneer families and began serving Jews throughout Western Illinois and Eastern Iowa. They had the foresight to establish the Mt. Nebo Cemetery in 1851 which is still owned and maintained by our congregation today. The earliest records we have, which are in German, indicate that B’Nai Israel Congregation officially came into being on October 21, 1861. A constitution and by-laws were adopted on December 6, 1862. We are the oldest, continuously active Jewish congregation in the State of Iowa.
Since 1879, this congregation has proudly been affiliated with the American Reform Movement and joined the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC) just 6 short years after the UAHC was founded. Our Sisterhood is one of a few remaining who originally established the National Federation of Temple Sisterhoods, now known as the WRJ (Women of Reform Judaism).
This American Reform Jewish organization is the largest Jewish movement in North America and represents 1.5 million Jews from over 900 congregations. In 2003, the Union for Reform Judaism name (URJ) was formally approved to replace the UAHC and better reflect today’s environment.
In April 2011 we celebrated 150 years in continuous existence with a special Shabbat weekend led by then-URJ President, Rabbi Eric Yoffie. We followed this wonderful celebration with another exhilarating weekend in November 2011, with world renown Torah Scribe, Neil Yerman. Sofer Yerman led us through discussions and examinations of our Torah Scrolls and finally with a Torah Lettering project in one of our scrolls that our Temple families found deeply meaningful and uplifting.
Each year brings new challenges and new blessings. We can’t wait to see what’s in store for us this year!
- Established 1861. Current location since 1953.
- Devoted to the enhancement of Reform Jewish life.