A Brief History Of Nashville’s Jewish Community

Passover began at sundown on Wednesday April 8 and will end at nightfall on Thursday April 16.

In honor of Passover and the local Jewish Community I am posting an article provided by Nashville historian, Annette Rankin. The historic photo shown with this article was added by Nashville Past And Present and is not part of the original publication.


Photo, Courtesy Tennessee State Library And Archives

A Brief History of the Nashville Jewish Community

Courtesy,the Archives of the Jewish Federation of Nashville

Nashville dates its beginning from 1780, and by the 1840s there were enough Jewish men to meet for services. In 1851, the group established a Hebrew Benevolent Burial Association, and purchased property for a cemetery. This property is part of The Temple Cemetery, and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2004.

1851 marks the founding date of The Temple, Congregation,Ohabai Shalom, which celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2001. This congregation, the first in Nashville and in the State of Tennessee, was first chartered in 1854 as Mogen David, in honor of Davidson County. A second congregation, Ohava Emes, was chartered in 1860.
Mogen David and Ohava Emes united in 1867, and the merged congregation was called Ohavai Shalom. The Vine Street Temple, now The Temple, was dedicated in 1876, and became one of the first members of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations.

Congregation Adath Israel, which became West End Synagogue, Nashville’s Conservative synagogue, was chartered in 1876, and built a synagogue on Gay Street in 1902. In the early 1870s the Hungarian Benevolent Society was organized. It met in a little house next to the Ryman Auditorium, pictured in the murals of Nashville landmarks at Opryland Hotel. Chartered in 1905, the Orthodox congregation Sherith Israel built a shul on the site of the house next to the Ryman Auditorium in 1920. All three of these congregations moved to their present locations in the 1940s and 1950s.

Congregation Micah, a Reform congregation, began in 1992, and celebrated its tenth anniversary in 2002.

The YMHA was founded in 1902, and celebrated its centennial as the Gordon Jewish Community Center. The Jewish Community Council began in 1936 and became the Jewish Federation of Nashville and Middle Tennessee, the central voluntary communal organization of the Nashville Jewish community.

Akiva School, the Jewish community elementary day school began in 1954 and moved to its present location on the campus of the Gordon Jewish Community Center in 1999.

Jewish Family Service in 2003 celebrated its 150th year of social service to the Jewish and general communities of Nashville. The Nashville Section of National Council of Jewish Women in 2001 observed its 100th year of volunteer community service. Hadassah was founded in 1926 and continues its support of the State of Israel today. B’nai B’rith began in 1863.

Congregation Beit Tefilah, based on Chabad, was founded in 2001. In 2002, the Ben Schulman Center for Jewish Life was opened on the campus of Vanderbilt University. It houses Grins, a kosher vegetarian restaurant,

These organizations and institutions help to make a vibrant Jewish life for the eight thousand Jews comprising the Nashville Jewish community.

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