Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim
A piece of Grecian beauty in the middle of downtown Charleston, Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim is a gorgeous synagogue with an extraordinary history. Learn more about Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim (known colloquially as K.K. Beth Elohim or Beth Elohim for short) down below!
A Beautiful Religious Building with a Deep History
K.K. Beth Elohim is the second-oldest Charleston Synagogue in the United States, as well as the oldest synagogue that has been continually used by its congregation. Beth Elohim’s congregation also has the honor of being the fourth-oldest Jewish community in the country.
The first version of Beth Elohim was built during Charleston’s colonial period in the year 1749. Colonial Charleston and the Carolina colony as a whole were remarkably tolerant when it came to accepting a wide variety of religions and religious practices.
The congregation of Beth Elohim consisted primarily of Orthodox practitioners of Judaism, from a Sephardic ancestry—a combined heritage of Spanish and Portuguese. At the end of the eighteenth century, Beth Elohim’s congregation was the largest Jewish community in the country at five hundred people.
The current iteration of Beth Elohim is actually the second synagogue of the congregation, built in 1840; the first was, unfortunately, destroyed in 1838 during the Charleston fire. The current Beth Elohim showcases awe-inspiring architecture made in the Greek Revival style, resembling the famous temples of Greece with its stoic and studious columns.
Since the establishment of the current Beth Elohim synagogue, the congregation has practiced Reform Judaism, and was the first Jewish congregation in the nation to adopt Reform Judaism. Reform Judaism, which involves organ music, choral singing, and prayers given in English and German instead of traditional Hebrew, came about as a result of a modern revolution in Hamburg, Germany during the 1810s.
Inside of this gorgeous synagogue, visitors can view a small but notable museum dedicated to sharing the history of Beth Elohim’s congregation through preserved artifacts, such as a letter written to the congregation from George Washington.
Beth Elohim is open to the public for its tour hours on Monday through Friday, from 10:00am until 12:00pm, while the gift shop is open until 4:00pm.
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