Keneseth Israel Synagogue

Keneseth Israel Synagogue

The Keneseth Israel Synagogue is a former Orthodox sanctuary at Jacob and Floyd Streets in downtown Louisville. It was demolished in 2021 after a fire.






History

Keneseth Israel, an Orthodox assembly affiliated with the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, was formed in 1926 when the B’nai Jacob and Beth Hamedrash Hagodol congregations merged in an effort to expand and improve their respective finances. 1 9

B’nai Jacob was founded in 1882/1877/1887 3 and held its services in the former Plymouth Congregational Church building 2 at 454 East Jefferson Street. 4 The building was torn down and a new sanctuary was dedicated in its place on March 24, 1901.

Beth Hamedrash Hagodol was formed in 1887 and by 1891, the congregation was meeting in the former butcher shop of Louis Warskansky. 5 It relocated to a former machine shop on Floyd Street by 1893 and to a former bakery down the street by 1895. By 1896, it began holding services at 425 East Jefferson Street before relocating to the former St. Paul German Lutheran Church on Green Street in 1905.

For a few years, the new combined congregation met in Beth Hamadrash Hagodol’s synagogue along Preston Street. In 1929, Keneseth Israel dedicated a sanctuary at the corner of Jacob and Floyd Streets. 1 9 Designed by the architectural firm of Joseph & Joseph and constructed by Platoff & Bush, the new facility was designed in the Neo-Classical style with Corinthian columns and Menorahs and a tablet carved into the facade between the first and second floors. 7 9

In 1952, the congregation transitioned from gender-segregated to mixed seating which caused two years of upheaval. 8 At times, the disruptions required the intervention of the police, caused the resignation of several prominent families, forced the departure of the rabbi, and caused a lawsuit to be filed against the congregation by one of its members.

In 1964, 6 7 9 Keneseth Israel relocated to a newly constructed assembly hall along Taylorsville Road, which was expanded with a sanctuary in 1971 and an auditorium in 1982. 6 7 The church building was sold to Calvary Cathedral 7 and the site was used by at least four other churches until becoming vacant in 2019. 10

In the late evening of March 13, 2021, a fire ripped through the roof of the vacant church building causing extensive structural damage. 10 The structure had no electricity and was set to be auctioned on March 18.

The former Keneseth Israel Synagogue was demolished on October 7.






Further Reading



Sources

  1. Weissbach, Lee Shai, editor. “The Formation of Kentucky’s Jewish Congregations.” The Synagogues of Kentucky, University Press of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, 1995, p. 28.
  2. Weissbach, Lee Shai, editor. “Kentucky Synagogue Buildings.” The Synagogues of Kentucky, University Press of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, 1995, p. 45.
  3. Weissbach, Lee Shai, editor. “Discovering Kentucky’s Synagogues.” The Synagogues of Kentucky, University Press of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, 1995, pp. 138-139.
  4. Weissbach, Lee Shai, editor. “Discovering Kentucky’s Synagogues.” The Synagogues of Kentucky, University Press of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, 1995, pp. 131-134.
  5. Weissbach, Lee Shai, editor. “The Formation of Kentucky’s Jewish Congregations.” The Synagogues of Kentucky, University Press of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, 1995, pp. 20-21.
  6. Weissbach, Lee Shai, editor. “Kentucky Synagogue Buildings.” The Synagogues of Kentucky, University Press of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, 1995, pp. 42-44.
  7. Weissbach, Lee Shai, editor. “Kentucky Synagogue Buildings.” The Synagogues of Kentucky, University Press of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, 1995, pp. 81-88.
  8. Weissbach, Lee Shai, editor. “Synagogue Design since World War II.” The Synagogues of Kentucky, University Press of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, 1995, pp. 106.
  9. Kleber, John E. “Keneseth Israel.” The Encyclopedia of Louisville, University Press of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, 2001, p. 458.
  10. Durden, Taylor. “Community mourns after fire damages historic Kentucky church.” WAVE 3, 15 Mar. 2021.

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