Agudas Israel Congregation, the only synagogue in Henderson County, North Carolina, began its foundation in 1900, when Edward Lewis and his family settled in Hendersonville and opened a general mercantile business. Harry Patterson and family soon followed. Gradually his friends and relatives settled in Hendersonville and established businesses.
These emigrant families who chose to establish their homes in a small rural town instead of the big cities throughout America, brought with them their Jewish customs and observances. They began to hold services in each other’s homes on a rotating basis and later used the Masonic Temple.
By 1922, twenty-seven men and women decided to formalize their religious practices and charter a congregation, Agudas Israel Congregation. In 1925, they purchased an old electric company which they converted into a synagogue. The synagogue was expanded and remodeled in 1964. Having a permanent house of worship gave them a place to pray for their growing numbers and also provided legitimacy of their own faith to their gentile neighbors. Agudas Israel started as an Orthodox synagogue, but by the 1950’s, they began to embrace Conservative Judaism. In 1996, the Congregation chose to affiliate with the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, now called Union for Reform Judaism.
Once the sanctuary was completed, the founding fathers sought out spiritual leadership. Chaim Williamowsky, an ordained Orthodox rabbi from Lithuania, became the synagogue’s first rabbi and served from 1925 to 1930. Beryl Cohen, a graduate of Diskin Orphanage and Yeshiva Seminary in Jerusalem and congregant since his arrival in 1920, then began leading religious services, teaching Hebrew school and ritually slaughtering chickens as the local shochet. He faithfully served until his death in 1964. The need for a qualified person to conduct services was filled by traveling circuit rabbis and senior student rabbis from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.
After much consideration and with a look towards the future, the Congregation decided to begin a major building campaign in 2000. Five acres were purchased in Laurel Park and the construction of a new synagogue was underway. Our new home at 505 Glasgow Lane was the beginning of expanded programming and enhanced worship services and our faithful commitment to grow and provide an enriched legacy for future generations.
Treasures of Agudas Israel Congregation booklet, created and designed by Dr. Judi Berson-Levinson, by clicking on: Treasures of Agudas Israel Booklet. This booklet is filled with great photos and information about the history of our synagogue.
Rabbi Rachael Jackson was ordained in 2015 and was thrilled to become a part of this community which prides itself on being engaging and welcoming. With a passion for teaching, learning, pastoral care, and social justice, Rabbi Jackson knows that Agudas Israel is a great shidduch (match).
She understands the importance of all aspects of synagogue life and the role of lay leadership, for prior to rabbinical school, Rabbi Jackson worked for biopharmaceutical, biofuel, and hazardous waste companies in Colorado as an analytical chemist. During this time, she also volunteered at Congregation Har HaShem in Boulder, CO where she sat on the Board and Executive Committee, led services, founded the 20s/30s group, and taught Torah study. It was at Har HaShem that she truly fell in love with Judaism and the beauty of congregational life, which inspired her to change careers and enter rabbinical school at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR).
While at HUC-JIR, Rabbi Jackson served student congregations in Portsmouth OH, Marion OH, Columbus IN, and Fairbanks AK. In addition to experience gained in these congregations, she was also a Fellow at the Cincinnati Jewish Community Center. While there, one of the programs she created and spearheaded was “Experiments with a Message,” directed to preschoolers, using science experiments as a way to teach Jewish values. An important facet of Rabbi Jackson’s rabbinate is to seamlessly meld Judaism and modernity, to integrate natural law and Jewish living.
Rabbi Jackson is married to Danyul, and they are excited to be at Agudas Israel along with their sweet son Adrian.
Separate from Agudas Israel, Rabbi Jackson is part of the Down the Wormhole podcast, where we are: Exploring the strange and fascinating relationship between science and religion.
On June 19, 2022, Agudas Israel voted on and installed our new Board of Trustees. We are grateful for the service they give to our community.
Our 2022-2023 Board of Trustees:
- President: Richard Tanker
- Vice-President: Sue Kopel
- Treasurer: Gerry Holstein
- Secretary: Barbara MacLachlan
- Laurel Ela, Community Involvement Team
- Zsa Lobel, Fundraising Chair
- Lynn Lewis
- Jay Naparstek, Membership Chair
- Nancy Weintraub
- Immediate Past President: Bonnie Cooper, z”l
- Sisterhood Co-Presidents: Kish Jarmon, Karen Murray
- Brotherhood Co-Presidents: Jeff Lewis, Neal Sutker
- Ritual Committee Chair: Cya Ashley
- Caring Committee Chair: Susan Hassett
Agudas Israel Congregation is a warm and welcoming group of people who invite you to come and visit our synagogue. Check out all of our events and services to experience us for yourselves.
For information regarding membership, please contact the office and pick up one of the blue new member folders. You may also choose to fill out the membership form here as well as our dues form. Again, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our office or to our membership chair, Jay Naparstek