Temple Emanu-El, Dallas

By: Gerry Cristol

Type: General Entry

Published: July 1, 1995

Updated: June 8, 2016

Temple Emanu-El, founded in 1873 and chartered in 1875, is on the corner of Hillcrest Road and Northwest Highway in North Dallas. It was originally called the Jewish Congregation Emanu-El and subsequently Congregation Emanu-El; it was renamed Temple Emanu-El Congregation in 1974 and is referred to as Temple Emanu-El. The reform Jewish congregation, led by Rabbi Sheldon Zimmerman, Rabbi Gerald J. Klein, and Rabbi Elisabeth Weiss Stern in 1987, had a membership numbering 2,375 families. Temple Emanu-El (Emanu-El is Hebrew for "God with us") is an outgrowth of the first organized Jewish group in Dallas, the Hebrew Benevolent Association. Eleven men, including Moses Ulman, E. M. Tillman, Alexander Sanger, and A. J. Rosenfield, formed the association on July 1, 1872, in order to help the sick, to bury the dead, and to hold religious services for persons of the Jewish faith. Temple Emanu-El dates its inception from the efforts of these pioneers since the Benevolent Association became part of Temple Emanu-El. Because the small but growing Jewish community felt the need for a permanent religious structure as well as for a rabbi to conduct services and to offer religious education for children, several families formed Congregation Emanu-El. They elected David Goslin president; Philip Sanger vice president; Emanuel Tillman treasurer; H. Regensburger secretary; and Alexander Sanger, August Israelsky, and Henry Loeb trustees. The next year they built a small red brick temple in the Byzantine style at Commerce and Church (now Field) streets in downtown Dallas. Since Congregation Emanu-El was founded in the reform tradition, it adopted a modern prayer book with English translations of the Hebrew prayers. The congregation engaged its first rabbi, Aaron Suhler, in 1875 and joined the Union of American Hebrew Congregations in 1906. When the first temple proved too small for the congregation, Temple Emanu-El erected a slightly larger red brick and stone temple on St. Louis and Ervay streets in 1899. As the congregation expanded and the residential population of the city left the downtown area, the congregation moved in 1916 to South Boulevard and Harwood Street. Architects Hubbel and Greene designed this third temple building in a classic style. In 1957 the temple moved to its present location in north Dallas. Architects Howard R. Meyer and Max M. Sandfield, with noted California architect William W. Wurster as consultant, received an Award of Merit from the American Institute of Architects for the design of the present structure, which was enhanced by art coordinator Gyorgy Kepes of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the work of local craftsmen John Szymak, Velma Dozier, Octavio Medellin, and Charles Williams, and international artists Anni Albers, Marc Chagall, and Ben Shawn. The building has been called Meyer's finest. Teak, tile, travertine, and Mexican brick were used on the temple, whose basic form is a cylinder for the sanctuary, surrounded by a rectangular structure that houses offices, meeting rooms, a chapel, and a school. Abstract stained-glass windows designed by Kepes accent the chapel and sanctuary; Medellin developed a technique for making gold and platinum-colored glass in order to execute Kepes's design. The curtain and doors of the ark were woven by Albers. Notable rabbis at the temple were David Lefkowitz (1920–49) and Levi A. Olan (1949–72). From 1874 to 1878 Temple Emanu-El sponsored a nonsectarian day-school that enrolled sixty to seventy children. This school, which employed non-Jewish teachers and principals before the Dallas public schools were established, may have been the first interfaith endeavor in Dallas. Temple Emanu-El sponsored the Community Course from its inception in 1939 until its demise in the late 1970s. The temple continues to offer cultural programs and lectures that are open to the public, such as book review series sponsored by the sisterhood of the temple's women. In its concern for social action the congregation founded and sponsored Rhoads Terrace Pre-School for Disadvantaged Children and a peace and world relations project begun by the sisterhood. The congregation is a member of North Dallas Shared Ministries Food Bank, East Dallas Health Coalition, and the Dallas Jewish Coalition. Temple Emanu-El publishes a newsletter, The Window, for its congregants. Since 1972 the Dorothy M. and Henry S. Jacobus Archives of Temple Emanu-El has housed all material pertaining to the congregation and its members, and these holdings are made available to interested congregants and scholars.

Dallas Morning News, April 2, 1922. David Dillon, Dallas Architecture, 1936–1986 (Austin: Texas Monthly Press, 1985). David Lefkowitz, History of Temple Emanu-El, Dallas (Dallas: Temple Emanu-El, n.d.). Howard Meyer Collection, Architecture and Planning Library, University of Texas at Austin.

  • Architecture
  • Churches and Synagogues
  • Missions
  • Peoples
  • Jews
  • Religion
  • Judaism
  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • Dallas
  • North Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Gerry Cristol, “Temple Emanu-El, Dallas,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 14, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/temple-emanu-el-dallas.

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July 1, 1995
June 8, 2016

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