Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim Reform Temple
The birthplace of Reform Judaism in the United States and the oldest continuously active synagogue in the nation is Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim Reform Temple (90 Hasell St., 843/723-1090, www.kkbe.org, service Sat. 11 a.m., tours Mon.–Fri. 10 a.m.–noon, Sun. 10 a.m.–4 p.m.).
The congregation—Kahal Kadosh means “holy community” in Hebrew—was founded in 1749, with the current temple dating from 1840 and built in the Greek Revival style so popular at the time.
The church’s Reform roots came about indirectly because of the great fire of 1838. In rebuilding, some congregants wanted to introduce musical instruments into the temple—previously a no-no—in the form of an organ. The Orthodox contingent lost the debate, and so the new building became the first home of Reform Judaism in the country, a fitting testament to Charleston’s longstanding ecumenical spirit of religious tolerance and inclusiveness.
Technically speaking, because the Holocaust destroyed all Reform temples in Europe, this is actually the oldest existing Reform synagogue in the world.
© Jim Morekis from Moon Charleston & Savannah, 4th Edition