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Temple Beth Sholom

Photograph of original Temple Beth Sholom building, 1960s

Temple Beth Sholom was the first Jewish congregation in Southern Nevada and continues to function as a religious, educational, and social center for a considerable portion of the Jewish community of Las Vegas. Previously known as the Jewish Community Center of Las Vegas, it became affiliated with the Conservative Movement and officially known as Temple Beth Sholom in 1958. The congregation originated in Las Vegas in the 1930s with a small group of families and grew to be the largest temple in Nevada during the 1960s. Until the 1970s, Temple Beth Sholom was the only synagogue in Las Vegas.

The “Sons and Daughters of Israel” was the first Jewish group in Las Vegas. In the 1930s, this group of about 25 people gathered at the back of a store to pray and to teach Judaism to their children. Services for the High Holy Days were held at the home of community member Nate Mack, and conducted by a cantor who traveled from Los Angeles for the occasion. By 1943 the “Sons and Daughters of Israel” disbanded and a chapter of B’nai B’rith was founded. In response to the growing number of Jewish families in the area, the Las Vegas Jewish Community Center was built in 1946, and in 1948 became a legal entity.

During the 1940s the community center’s activities included Las Vegas’s first preschool program, youth dances, Jewish Family Services, and the Sisterhood gift shop. The community also supported the establishment of the State of Israel, raising $40,000 for the United Jewish Appeal, the highest per capita contribution of Jewish citizens in the United States.

By the 1950s the Jewish population of Las Vegas had increased even more and the congregation purchased another property to accommodate the growth. Jewish casino owners and operators made significant contributions to the fundraising campaign, and also held leadership positions within the temple. At Rabbi Dr. Bernard Cohen’s suggestion, the congregation affiliated itself with the United Synagogues of America (the official governing body of the Conservative Movement) and chose its new name, Temple Beth Sholom. By this time the building included a 320-seat sanctuary, social hall, classrooms, a Junior sanctuary, and a consecrated Jewish burial ground.

Membership growth and physical expansion continued parallel to the expanding Jewish population in Las Vegas until a new Reform Temple, Ner Tamid, was formed in 1974. By the 1990s, Temple Beth Sholom’s membership numbers had dwindled to 300 families and plans were made to move to Summerlin, where many members were then living. The building on Oakey Boulevard was sold before a new building was constructed, and the community once again held services “in exile,” as it had in its early days. The Summerlin temple was dedicated in 2000 and is the center of many activities, including religious services, education, community groups, and events.

 

Chronology:

1946: Las Vegas Jewish Community Center is built at 1229 Carson Street.

1948: Becomes legal entity.

1956: Groundbreaking of property at 1600 Oakey Boulevard.

1958: The name “Temple Beth Sholom” is officially selected.

Affiliates with the United Synagogues of America.

1967: Temple Beth Sholom is the largest synagogue in Nevada, with 750 member families.

1973: Some members leave to form Congregation Ner Tamid.

1997: Oakey Boulevard property is sold.

2000: Dedication of Summerlin building on September 24.

 

Source:

“Mission & History.” Temple Beth Sholom. Accessed January 12, 2015. http://www.bethsholomlv.org/#!mission-history/c1qhp.

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