This is the only known photo from the First Children of Israel Synagogue in Benton Harbor, constructed in 1900.  It shows Rabbi Samuel Miller, who served the congregation from 1907-23.

 

History

The first Jewish families arrived in Benton Harbor in 1885 and worshipped in each other’s homes.

 

In 1895, the Children of Israel was formed, with its first synagogue building constructed on Eighth Street in Benton Harbor in 1900. In 1925, a new synagogue was constructed on Lake Street, close to downtown Benton Harbor, with an addition added in 1939.

 

Ohava Sholom Synagogue was formed in 1911. Its building at Seeley Street and Highland Avenue on the east side of Benton Harbor was close to Jewish resorts and Jewish-owned farms.


Ohava Sholom, which was an Orthodox congregation, merged with the Children of Israel, which was Conservative, in 1959.  The merged congregation used the Children of Israel building and changed its name to Congregation B'nai Sholom. At that time, membership totaled about 160 families.

 

In 1963, the congregation moved to its new building at the corner of Broadway and Delaware streets in the Fairplain area of Benton Township, where it remains.

 

Temple Beth-El was formed in 1934 as a Reform congregation. Four years later, members bought a house on Fair Avenue in Benton Harbor to serve as a meeting place, which served until its synagogue building on Britain Avenue was completed in 1949. An addition was completed in 1961.

 

In October 1971, Beth-El merged with B'nai Sholom and the name was changed to Temple B'nai Shalom, using the modern spelling of the Hebrew word for “peace.” At that time, B'nai Sholom had about 115 member families and Beth-El had 80.

 

Temple B'nai Shalom is affiliated with the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.