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Our History

Yeshuat Israel, founded in Newport during the colonial era, was Rhode Island’s first Jewish congregation. We're comparatively new. Officially known as Congregation Sons of Israel and David, Temple Beth-El originated in 1844, also as an Orthodox house of worship. Twenty three years later, in 1877, we joined what was then the Union of American Hebrew congregations as one of New England's earliest members. Although several families have belonged to Temple Beth-El for generations, a large number have been new to America, new to Providence or new to Judaism.

Three buildings have welcomed these new members of the country, community, and faith.  The first, erected in downtown Providence in 1890, was used until the second was built in South Providence in 1911.  It then became widely known as Temple Beth-El. 

The congregation's third home, made possible by two key bequests, was erected on Providence’s East Side in 1954. Designed by Percival Goodman, it was one of the first and finest examples of a modern-style synagogue in New England. Having been lovingly maintained, this graceful edifice and its daring symbolic art have inspired subsequent generations to understand and celebrate Jewish tradition in new and abiding ways.

Numerous educators, librarians, presidents, and executive directors have also proven our success through stability and devotion. For example, the daily minyan, begun in 1955, is the oldest within the Reform movement. The Braude Library is one of North America’s largest congregational libraries. In 1989 the Temple inaugurated its Bernhardt History Gallery and published its own comprehensive history.  Sons of Israel and David’s peaceful cemetery, which originated in 1849, represents another faithful link through the ages.


Past Clergy

Many congregants fondly remember two of our most distinguished rabbis. Dr. William G. Braude served from 1932 until 1974; his assistant and successor, Leslie Y. Gutterman, served from 1970 until 2015.  Blessed with individual strengths and talents, each set a record as Rhode Island’s longest-serving rabbi.  The chair of senior rabbi and the religious school have been endowed in Rabbi Gutterman’s honor. Our congregation has also enjoyed steady and inspired leadership from several assistant and associate rabbis. Temple Beth-El established new traditions when it appointed the state’s first woman rabbi and the state’s first woman cantor.

Tue, July 23 2024 17 Tammuz 5784