In 1877, Tarboro Jews established congregation B’nai Israel.  Some of the founding members were Henry Morris, Philip Whitlock and Gerson Zander.  In 1882, board members voted to adopt Reform Judaism and two years later dedicated its rented meeting space as a synagogue.  Initially, a Hebrew Union College student led services during the High Holidays.  In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Jewish immigrants from Russia and Germany settled in Tarboro and joined B’nai Israel.  By 1897, enough money had been raised for the congregation’s permanent home and B’nai Israel dedicated its first synagogue with a capacity crowd.  The wooden structure had an impressive sanctuary with stained glass windows.  Joseph Zander served as lay reader for the small congregation.  In 1907, B’nai Israel had fifteen members with twelve students in the religious school.  Worship was somewhat traditional with lots of Hebrew in its Shabbat services.  However, the congregation gradually moved away from traditional practices over the next few decades.

Abstract from the article, “Encyclopedia of Southern Jewish Communities – Tarboro, North Carolina,” found on the website, Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life (https://www.isjl.org), accessed 15 January 2021.

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