CONGREGATION
GEMILUTH CHASSODIM

The Jewish Temple of Alexandria, Louisiana

Founded 1859

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HISTORY



Above - the second Jewish Temple in Alexandria, c. 1908, an imposing, domed Greek Revival structure, more than three stories tall.

Congregation Gemiluth Chassodim was originally established as the Hebrew Benevolent Society of Rapides Parish in 1852 in order to provide a Jewish Cemetery for burials. Three men, Samuel Bernstein (a resident of Winn Parish), Henry Klotz and Abraham Mitchell purchased a piece of property in Pineville for the burial of Augusta Bernstein. One belief is that certain families bought a burial ground when a small outbreak of yellow fever claimed six Jewish lives in the early 1850's.

Eventually, the society evolved into Congregation Gemiluth Chassodim, which means "Acts of Lovingkindness" in 1859. The first President of the Temple was Isaac Levy.

In 1860, the Jewish women of Alexandria assembled to found the Ladies' Hebrew Benevolent Society in order to raise money to buy real estate on which a temple could be built. The Ladies Hebrew Benevolent Society eventually changed its name to the Temple Sisterhood. In 1869, the Temple Sisterhood held a fundraising ball to raise money to build a Synagogue at the corner of Third and Fisk Streets. Construction of the Temple concluded in 1871. Two years later Congregation Gemiluth Chassodim became a founding Congregation of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations on October 14, 1873 and Rabbi Marx Kline was employed as its first rabbi.

    

left - the first Jewish Temple in Alexandria, c. 1869, corner Third and Fisk Sts.
right - the second Jewish Temple built in 1908; burned in 1956.

Gemiluth Chassodim experienced a great increase in its membership from 123 families in 1925, to 154 families in 1930, and 203 families in 1945. The "Second Temple" which stood as an imposing Greek Revival structure (more than three stories tall) with a dome, unfortunately burned down in 1956.

The congregation had already constructed part of its current Synagogue at 2021 Turner Street in the early 1950's. Designed by Congregation member Max Heinberg, of the Alexandria architectural firm Barron, Heinberg and Brocato, and constructed by Congregation member and builder Barnet Brezner, it stands as a unique example of Mid-Century Modern architecture. In the late 1950's, the current Sanctuary, offices and classrooms were added. The Sanctuary is capable of holding some 360 people at maximum capacity. The Congregation is in the process of applying for historical status in the National Historic Register.

As is true of many small Jewish Synagogues in the South, and indeed across the country, the numbers of our Congregation have diminished to around 90 families. However, the Temple is thriving with energy and enthusiasm; with a Religious School of 25 students and a talented teacher force of seven; with active programs for youth in music, art and a computer lab for Hebrew and religious study. Temple Sisterhood is active, providing numerous social events for Temple members, and support for the Synagogue itself through very successful annual fund raisers. Torah Study by lay leaders and guests provides additional adult educational venues; and periodic guest Rabbis, authors and lecturers provide spiritual and stimulating discussion and learning opportunities.  

In 1984, Rabbi Martin I. Hinchin wrote and published FOURSCORE AND ELEVEN, A History of the Jews of Rapides Parish 1828-1919. The history was published in time for the 125 Anniversary Celebration of the Congregation on February 24, 1984. The book is still available. Please call the Temple office to obtain a copy.

Rabbi Martin I. Hinchin (1858-1988) was named Rabbi Emeritus after having served the Congregation as spiritual leader for 30 years.

Rabbi Arnold S. task (1989-2011) was named Rabbi Emeritus after having served the Congregation as spiritual leader for 22 years.

CONGREGATION RABBIS

Below is a list of Rabbis who have served the congregation since 1873:

1873-1879   Rev. Marx Klein
1881-1882   Rev. M. Weinstein
1882-1884   Rev. Abraham Meyer
1884-1885   Rev. H. Joseph M. Chumaceiro
1888-1889   Rev. Israel Heinberg
1889-1891   Rev. Hyman Saft
1892-1895   Rev. Louis Schreiber
1895-1901   Rev. Alex Rosenspitz
1901-1905   Rabbi Emile Ellinger
1905-1907   Rabbi Herman J. Elkin
1907-1918   Rabbi Leonard J. Rothstein
1919-1920   Rabbi Harry Weiss
1921-1926   Rabbi Myron M. Meyer
1927-1930   Rabbi H. Cerf Strauss
1930-1942   Rabbi Albert G. Baum
1943-1944   Rabbi Abraham Shinedling
1946-1947   Rabbi H. Bruce Ehrmann
1947-1951   Rabbi Mordecai M. Thurman
1952-1956   Rabbi Robert J. Schur
1957           Rabbi Joel C. Dobin
1958-1988   Rabbi Emeritus Martin I. Hinchin
1988-1989   Rabbi James L. Kessler
1989-2011   Rabbi Emeritus Arnold S. Task
2011-2012   Jonathan L. Cohen 
2013-2016   Rabbi Harley Karz-Wagman
2016-         Interim Rabbi Peter Schaktman

CONGREGATIONAL PRESIDENTS

1859-1861   Isaac Levy
1861-1871   Julius Levin
1871-1882   Edouard (Edward) Weil
1882-1886   Samuel Schmalinski
1886-1888   Julius Levin
1888-1890   Moses Rosenthal
1890-1893   Moses Bloom
1893-1894   Moses Mayer
1894-1898   Moses Bloom
1898-1899   David Lehman
1899-1901   Achille Bauer
1901-1902   Moses Mayer
1902-1904   Gustave Gehr
1904-1906   Julius Levin
1906-1907   Achille Bauer
1907-1910   William Peterson
1910-1918   Gustave Gehr
1918-1920   Joseph Goldberg
1920-1922   Gustave Gehr
1922-1925   Wilfred Gehr
1925-1927   Morris J. Weiss
1927-1952   Will Hochbaum
1952-1954   Raphael C. Bauer
1954-1957   Barnet Brezner
1957-1960   Harry B. Silver
1960-1963   George J. Ginsberg
1963-1965   Max J. Heinberg
1965-1968   Alvin M. Mykoff
1968-1969   Edwin J. Caplan
1969-1972   Homer H. Adler
1972-1973   Raphael C. Bauer
1973-1975   Harry A. Hammill
1975-1976   Marvin L. Caplan
1976-1978   Leon Jacobson
1978-1981   Bernard M. Bindursky
1981-1983   David C. Caplan
1983-1986   Jacque Caplan
1986-1989   Martin Heyman
1989-1991   Edwin Caplan
1991-1994   Joen Mykoff
1994-1997   Ted Silver
1997-2000   Michael A. Bindursky
2000-2003   Jim Levy
2003-2005   Carole (Sissy) Dayan
2005-2008   Lee Rubin
2008-2011   Dr. Ronnie Marks
2011-2014   Marilyn Wellan
2014-2017   Art Williams
2017 -        Michael A. Bindursky

Michael A. Bindursky, Temple President

Congregation Gemiluth Chassodim
2021 Turner Street Alexandria, LA 71301
P.318.445.3655
F.318.445.7991
secretary@jewishtemple.org

www.jewishtemple.org

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