Unlike most synagogues in South Florida, we have a long history. We were founded in 1922, and have been in the same location since 1928. In some respects, the history of Temple Israel is the history of Miami. For more than 90 years, Temple Israel has been a Jewish beacon in the central city of Miami. It has had a unique role in South Florida—maverick, intelligent, progressive.

Now in 2020, Temple Israel of Greater Miami is actively visioning and charting a course for growth as the downtown of Miami continues to go through its own redevelopment and renaissance. Our community has constantly been strengthened by moving forward while celebrating our past.

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    The Founding

    Temple Israel, South Florida’s first reform synagogue was founded in 1922 in answer to a need for less structured, less traditional services than were available at that time in Miami. The temple’s first home was on what is now Biscayne Boulevard and N.E. 13th Street - The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts.

    Charter Members: Harry V. Simons, President J.M. Gusky, Secretary Morris Plant, Treasurer Mrs. M.L. Cowen, Financial Secretary

    Nathan Roth, L. Applebaum, Leo Ackerman, Mrs. L. Axenham, H.N. Bott, Leo Bass, A.B. Cromer, M.L. Cowen, Julius Damenstein, Mrs. Carrie Miller, Chas. Peyser, M. Rubin, P. Ullendorff, B. Werner, Jack Weintraub, Rabbi Salo Stein, Max M. Nankin, R. Elfman, J. Feuer, H. Goldberg, D. Gottfried, Mrs. J. Goodman, M. Harkins, M.C. Hodes, H.H. Hyman, Dr. M.D. Katz, S. Kaufman, J. Gerald Lewis, L. Lichtensletter, S. Mendelson, B.A. Molnar, L. Stein, Joe Weiss, L. Weintraub, A.S. Zucker, Louis Wolfson, R.W. Apte
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    Within five years, with 216 member families, the congregation boasted not only a new building, but their own Rabbi. Rabbi Jacob H. Kaplan joined the temple, in 1927, at its current location (N.E. 19th Street), just a block and a half west of stylish Biscayne Boulevard. Rabbi Kaplan remained with the temple, in various capacities, until his death in 1965.
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    Colman Zwitman became the temple’s rabbi in 1936, serving until his untimely death from World War II related injuries in 1949. The synagogue’s continued growth justified the building of a religious school (named after Rabbi Zwitman), social hall in 1954 and assorted office and classroom space by 1960.
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    The First Golden Age

    Rabbi Joseph Narot served as Temple Israel’s rabbi from 1950 until his death in 1980. Rabbi Narot was brilliant, learned, liberal, and outspoken,and became the voice of Judaism in South Florida, Boldly speaking out for civil rights and against the Vietnam War, he encouraged his congregation to live Judaism by being actively engaged in local, national and world issues. Rabbi Narot was joined in 1952 by Temple Israel’s first cantor, the beloved Jacob Bornstein. The temple became a leader in social action, hosting the first area meetings of Christian and Jewish clergy, the first formal contact between white and African American clergy, and the earliest formal encounters of Spanish-speaking and English-speaking clergy. The congregation established the first local Head Start program.
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    During Rabbi Narot’s tenure, Temple Israel grew to become one of America’s largest synagogues, with approximately 1,800 families, so large in fact that High Holy Day services were held off campus in the Miami Beach Convention Center. As Temple Israel grew to greatness, so did many of its families. The temple membership rolls were and continue to be a who’s who of South Florida’s leading Jewish families.
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    Temple Israel Today

    Miami is now a thriving, vibrant multicultural international city. Temple Israel still is the heart of the central city and provides the pulse of Jewish life downtown. The temple's neighborhood has profited from a a renaissance of redevelopment, redirection and re-commitment with a vision that matches that of our congregational leaders. Artfully designed apartment buildings and upscale condominiums have been built nearby, and Temple Israel is blocks from Wynwood, Midtown, and the Design District. The Adrienne Arsht Performing Arts Center, four blocks away, is located aptly, on the site of Temple Israel's home from 1922 to 1926. Temple Israel has benefited from the return of families to the central city. Now, Temple Israel of Greater Miami, is actively visioning and charting a course for growth. Our community has constantly been strengthened by moving forward while celebrating our past.