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History of Fort Worth Jewry


The following article originally appeared in the November 1997 issue of Footprints, the quarterly publication of the Fort Worth Genealogical Society. It is reprinted here with permission.

Written in 1925 by M. Shanblum

Contributed to Footprints by Shirley Apley
Staff, Genealogy Department, Fort Worth Public Library

When I came to Fort Worth in the year 1887, I found only six Jewish families who worshipped in a private house on holidays. Our Orthodox Congregation, known as Congregation Ahavath Sholom, was organized on October the 9th 1892 at the residence of W. Goldstein (now deceased) with the following officers: W. Goldstein, President; M. Shanblum, Vice President; J. Jacobs, Secretary and J. B. Colton, Treasurer. In 1894 we bought a lot on the corner of Jarvis and Hemphill to build a place of worship. In 1895 we built a small house of worship for a synagogue. In 1899 we bought a lot on Taylor Street (the present location) 50 x 100 feet for $1600.00 and moved the synagogue to this lot in 1901.

In 1906, we built our synagogue, borrowing $10,000 for this purpose. In 1912 we bought another lot on Taylor Street, close to the synagogue and borrowed $20,000 to build the present Hebrew Institute, a three-story building, at a cost of $35,000, The building is an up-to-date modern structure, the first floor being occupied by the daily school classes, a library and a large meeting room. The second floor contains the ballroom, ladies' restroom and a kitchen. The third floor is given up to a very large gymnasium, meeting room and other convenient places. The Institute building committee was headed by M. Shanblum, as Chairman, L. F. Shanblum, Secretary and I. N. Mehl as Treasurer, while Felix P. Bath acted as Legal Advisor. Other committee members were S. Simon, N. Eckert, L. G. Gilbert, S. Gilbert, B. Levanson, J. Goldstein, A. Salsberg, T. Gens, A. Simon, S. Rosen, L. Cohen, J. W. Wolffson, W. Goldstein and J. Jacobs.

We now have a congregation of about 175 members. A new president and board of directors are elected each year. Current officers are M. J. Chicotsky, President; J. Jacobs, Vice President, L. F. Shanblum, Treasurer, A. Salsberg, Secretary. The latter has held that office for the last 24 years. Trustees are: I. N. Mehl, J. Goldstein, C. Klimast, A. Rosenthal, D. Carshon and M. Shanblum.

Our Hebrew School has about 125 pupils. Classes are conducted in the regular class rooms in the Hebrew Institute. Mr. M. Resnick, the main teacher, is also principal, while Miss Lily Rosenbaum is assistant teacher. Expenses for the School run about $500 per month.

The Sunday School has ten teachers and about 150 children. Some of the teachers are graduates of Central High School. The School is headed by Mr. M. Resnick and Miss Lily Rosenbaum. Teachers are Misses Blanche Herman, Rose Weinstein, Leah Goldstein, Julia Levanson, Zelda Wolffson, Eva Greenspun, Mollie Kruger and Minnie Nathan. They receive no remuneration for their noble work.

Our Ladies Auxiliary, now ten years old,, functions for the benefit of the Synagogue and the Institute, and is the pride of our community. Mrs. Sam Rosen was the first President and is now the beloved Godmother of the organization. Mrs. R. Goldstein, the next President, has given the best that is in her for the success of the Auxiliary. Mrs. L. F. Shanblum became the most recent President, but resigned due to serious illness, and was succeeded by Mrs. Max Gilbert, VicePresident. The Auxiliary also does considerable charity work and sponsors the Sunday School. We also own a six acre cemetery lot. Mrs. Rebecca Goldstein is President of the Cemetery Society and Mrs. L. F. Shanblum is Secretary.

Our Hebrew Relief Society (men's) spends not less than $3500.00 a year for charitable purposes. The President and Manager of this organization is Mr. I. N. Mehl, who has held this office for the past 25 years. The office is located at 1211 Main Street. Mrs. L. F. Shanblum is President of the Ladies Relief Society, which has been in existence for the past 20 years.

A Free Loan Association has a capital stock of $5000,00 and loans for the year amounting to $20,000.00. There are two sick benefit organizations with dues of $.50 per month. They in return pay the sick $5.00 a week. These organizations are known as "Agudath Achim" (Brotherly Gathering) and "B'nai Avrom" (Sons of Abraham).

We have three fraternal organizations. Two of them, in case of death of the insured, provide the beneficiary $500.00. They are known as the "Progressive Order of the West" and "The Hebrew Protective Association." The "B'nai Brith" (Sons of the Covenant) - an international organization - has as its object the support of orphan's homes, hospitals and other national or international Jewish institutions, The Isador Strauss Lodge No. 519 of Fort Worth was organized July 13, 1902. It has 160 members. Present officers are: S. Brachman, President; Dr. A. Antwiel, Vice-President; I. E. Horowitz, Recording Secretary; L. F. Shanblum, Financial Secretary and D. L. Colton, Treasurer.

There is also a Mutual Home Loan Association with a capital stock of $30,000 which loans out as much as $1,000 at a time to the party asking the loan, if backed by a good signature with interest due. Our young men's Hebrew Association and young women's Hebrew Association represent the Jewish young men and women of the community.


Reform Judaism

Reform Judaism began in 1903 with an old temple on 5th and Taylor Streets. organized in 1903. The first rabbi was Rabbi Jaisin and the rabbi coming into greatest prominence was Rabbi George Fox. It was during his time that the present Temple Beth-El on Broadway was built in 1919.

Membership of the congregation is now some 180 members and the present rabbi is Rabbi H. A. Merfold with Max K. Mayer President. The Temple Sisterhood, formerly a religious organization, now functions as an auxiliary to the Temple. Mrs. Louis Morris is President. The Temple Brotherhood is headed by Mr. Morris Schwartzberg.

The Council of Jewish Women, of 183 members, has been in existence for the last 25 years. It has a threefold purpose: religious, educational and philanthropic. Mrs. H. H. Miller is President. Miss Ruth Gilbert is President of the Junior Council.

The Hebrew Rest Cemetery is headed by Mrs. Dave Brown and Mrs. H. Gernsbacher, assisted by U. M. Simon, the late Sam Levy, Felix P. Bath and others.


This page was last modified 18 Jun 2002.

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