Jewish merchants began arriving in Fresno as the city itself became established in the late 1800’s. By the early 1900’s, the Jewish community organized to worship together, teach our children and establish the many services and activities that are still important aspects of Jewish life here in the Central Valley. Temple Beth Israel incorporated as a congregation on May 8, 1919 with Rabbi Alexander Segal first serving the congregation. The site for the first synagogue at 2336 Calaveras Street in downtown Fresno was purchased on February 20, 1922 and on December 17, 1922 the ground breaking ceremonies were held. But the Great Depression and a bad raisin crop slowed our progress and initially only the social halls, kitchens, dining and class rooms were finished. The completion of the Sanctuary took place in 1936 under the leadership of Ben Maisler as head of the building committee, during the presidency of Sam Davidson. The entire building would ultimately be completed in 1938. With Mr. Davidson as president, Rabbi David L. Greenberg and Estelle Greenberg were invited in July 1931 to lead the community.
Rabbi David Greenberg would serve Temple Beth Israel for four decades and another two as the rabbi emeritus. Estelle Greenberg founded the TBI Sisterhood. Rabbi Greenberg pioneered interfaith dialogue, developing the weekly radio show “Forum for Better Understanding” together with Monsignor James Dowling of the Catholic Church and Dean James Malloch from the Episcopal Church. The radio program eventually syndicated and ran from 1937 until 1954. Statue of the Forum for Better Understanding in Courthouse Square, Downtown Fresno, representing Rabbi Greenberg, Dean Malloch and Monsignor Dowling.
In 1951 Michael Loring was elected Cantor & Director of Activities, to direct the music and the educational programs of the congregation.
Temple Beth Israel followed Fresno’s development and moved to our current location in the northwest part of town in 1991. The new campus gives us space for our sanctuary/social hall building and the education building with plenty of lawn for the kids to play, for picnics and a variety of other outdoor activities. Three Fresno elementary schools were named for prominent members of the Jewish community… Greenberg Elementary for Rabbi David Greenberg, Powers-Ginsburg for Hyman Ginsburg, Slater Elementary for Louis Slater. Today, members of the Temple Beth Israel community continue to be actively involved in all aspects of life in Fresno and the surrounding region.