Who We Are

Temple History

Our synagogue has been in existence for over 80 years and is a source of great pride and joy for both the native-born and those who have moved here from elsewhere.

Jews came to live in Winston-Salem in the early 1880s. The first settler is believed to have been Joe Jacobs, a men’s clothier who moved here from Baltimore with his wife and two children. By the end of the decade, there were enough Jews in town to hire the first rabbi, Mordecai Shapiro. Winston-Salem’s first formal Jewish religious services, which were Orthodox, were held in 1890.

Later, a group of people interested in a more liberal expression of Judaism, with more English in the service, began laying the groundwork for a new congregation. Their original intent was to form a Conservative congregation. However, a new young rabbi was about to graduate from Hebrew Union College. The community was so impressed with Meyer Simon that they offered him a position in 1934, which he accepted for the recently created Reform congregation, Temple Emanuel, which was founded in 1932.

The Jewish community’s first place of worship was a remodeled storeroom downtown. After a succession of downtown locations, Temple Emanuel moved into its present building in 1952. An education wing was added in 1972.

The original building and educational wing now house the preschool, religious school, library, and administrative offices for the Rabbi, educators and staff.

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Adjacent land, purchased in 2000, is the home for our new sanctuary and social hall.
Temple Emanuel was incorporated in 1946 with 63 member families. Today we have approximately 280 member units (singles and families) and continue to develop. If you are interested in learning more about Temple Emanuel, copies of a printed in-depth history are available by contacting the Temple Office.