Temple Beth-El: A Historical Look at Chicago’s Trailblazing Reform Congregation
To tell the story of Temple Beth-El, we will first learn how it came to be a Chicago-born congregation over 140 years ago. Although today’s vibrant congregation bears little resemblance figuratively to the temple in its infancy, our vital spirit—the feeling of ruach—and goal of religious inclusion for all who care to worship is just as it was back in the day of our founders.
By the late 1860s, Chicago was a promising destination for thousands of immigrants venturing across the Atlantic Ocean in search of honest work, religious freedom, and a better future. It was also an industrial capital about to be ravaged by the largest fire ever to occur on American shores. In the aftermath of that fire, where some saw hopelessness and defeat, a group of men united by faith and common purpose formed a congregation that would grow to become the Temple Beth-El of today. Their remarkable story is our story.