Congregation B’nai Israel, Little Rock, Arkansas, was officially organized on November 11, 1866. The dedication of our first Temple, a rented room, took place in August of 1871. The Congregation soon purchased a site, began raising funds for construction of a Temple building. In 1872, the Congregation celebrated the dedication of our first Temple in downtown Little Rock. In 1873 we were one of thirty-two Congregations represented at the First Assembly of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations as a charter member. Congregation B’nai Israel has been a member of the UAHC, now the Union for Reform Judaism, throughout our history. As our congregation grew, in May of 1897, we dedicated a new Temple at Broadway and Capital Avenue in downtown Little Rock, our Congregational home for over 70 years. Our current building in West Little Rock was dedicated in 1975. It is a beautiful, modern building that incorporates many treasures from our previous Temple.
Congregation B’nai Israel’s history and success is also intricately linked with the history and success of Central Arkansas. Our Congregation played an important role in the American Civil Rights Movement, particularly involved in the desegregation of Central High School. Rabbi Ira Sanders provided strong rabbinic leadership for our Congregation during a turbulent time in our civic and national history throughout his 37-year tenure. Rabbi Sanders was succeeded by Rabbi E.E. Palnick, for a 23-year tenure. Rabbi Eugene Levy retired in 2011 after serving our Congregation for 24 years. Rabbi Barry Block has lead our congregation since 2013.
Congregation B’nai Israel is fortunate to have numerous descendants of our visionary founders working with newer members in actively supporting the mission of our Congregation. We are proud to be a community deeply rooted in the Reform movement; we celebrate diversity and innovation while honoring the traditions of our faith.