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Union for Reform Judaism
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K.K. Beth Shalome,Virginia's first Jewish house of worship and home to the congregation which was Beth Ahabah's predecessor.

Our History

"Ye are commanded to seek the peace of the City...hold charity and justice to be essential...parts of your faith...Avoid all interference with the religious opinion of others."

Jews were already doing business in the Virginia Territory as early as 1650. By the 1760's they began to settle in Richmond and by 1790 Jewish residents numbered 100 citizens out of the 3700 citizens in the city. In 1789 a group of Jews established Kahal Kadosh Beth Shalome (The Holy Congregation, House of Peace), a congregation based on Sephardic tradition (the Jewish culture that began in medieval Spain and spread through the Mediterranean basin). It became the first congregation in Richmond and the sixth and westernmost Jewish congregation in the United States. By 1822 K.K. Beth Shalome members worshipped in the first synagogue building in Virginia. (This building on Mayo Street unfortunately no longer exists.)

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Photo of the Rev. M.J. Michelbacher, Congregation Beth Ahabah's first Rabbi.

In the 1800's a growing number of Ashkenazic Jews (German and Eastern European Jews) immigrated to Richmond and joined the congregation, but soon longed for their more familiar form of service. In 1841 they founded Congregation Beth Ahabah (House of Love) as an offshoot of K.K. Beth Shalome. Beth Ahabah founded the first Jewish school in Richmond in 1846 and established its first house of worship in 1848 at Eleventh and Marshall Streets. The Congregation took its first steps toward Reform in 1867 when an organ was proposed, family pews were instituted and women were allowed to become members of the choir. Beth Ahabah joined the Reform Movement's Union of American Hebrew Congregation in 1875. A second synagogue was built on the same site at Eleventh and Marshall Streets in 1880. In 1898 K.K. Beth Shalome formally merged with Congregation Beth Ahabah.

Our history and its magnificent architecture are now in book form!

The sixth oldest Jewish congregation in the U.S. was founded three years after the Virginia General Assembly enacted the Statute for Religious Freedom in 1786. But that is just the beginning. In the middle, 1904, our present synagogue was erected. The end of the story is you. You are the present and the future of Beth Ahabah. You enable the community to grow.

The book was written, photographed and designed by our members and volunteers – Art Director and instigator: Linda Held Wren; author: Claire Rosenbaum and photographer: Chuck Savage. The book is available in both hard and soft bound versions. 

There are two ways to get a copy:

1. You can purchase the book in the Beth Ahabah Museum & Archives

2. You can buy online soon. http://www.blurb.com/books/2150704

The book makes a great gift for Bar and Bat Mitzvahs or any birthdays and proceeds benefit the Temple and the Museum. It is also a great way to honor a devoted member.

The Synagogue >>

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