Property Type: Institutional
Neighborhood: The Bench  |  County: Ada  |  Building Status: Public  |  Year Built: 1896  |  Architectural Style: Romanesque Revival
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Temple Ahavath Beth Israel has a long and important history in Boise. Moses Alexander founded Idaho’s first temple, Beth Israel with 25 of the 100 Jews in 1895 and construction was completed in 1896. The temple was built on land on 11th and State streets downtown which was purchased for $1,700. Designed by architectural firm of Chestney and Schroeder, the building included a “modernized Moorish.” yet Romanesque, feel that was patterned after similar buildings in Spain.

The structure itself was built of Boise sandstone, alternating with white and reddish pink. Adorning this are cedar shingles and stained glass ornate windows. These windows in particular were worn down over time and were a target of the 1980-1981 renovations, under the direction of Ron Thurber and Fred Walters.

Additional areas of focus were the window trim and the addition of new ark doors to the front of the building which were patterned after a set of original pocket doors found in the walls. Also, Thurber and company restored the original hand made Star of David which, interestingly, was kept on the mantle of his office fireplace for a while. Evidently the placement of the Star and its ceremony was stalled until after an Aryan Nation conference had left Boise out of respect for the Temple according to Mr. Thurber. Renovations were carried out in response to the adding of the Temple to the National Register of Historic Places, which provided preservation funds. The total cost of the improvements was the sum of $34,000. Upon finishing in October 1981, the Temple held a rededication ceremony attended by 350 people. The Temple was also opened up to the public shortly after on October 17, drawing 4,000 visitors.

As a result of the renovation there was a renewed pride in the building and the congregation’s membership grew greatly in size. Adding to the prestige is the fact that the Temple is the oldest synagogue in continuous use west of the Mississippi River. By 1994 about 210 families were in full attendance, but the synagogue was only designed to hold 150 people. This created a need for more room especially on Jewish holidays, which prompted the movement for an eventual relocation of the Temple.

At 1 AM on October 26, 2003 the Temple was moved to Latah Street, situated behind Morris Hill Cemetery. The 60 ton, 108-year-old structure was moved onto huge dollies and physically pushed to the new location. Photographs were taken before the Temple was moved so that the sand stone base could be meticulously recreated. The Temple has since become a part of the expanded, $2.8 million Jewish Religious Center.