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The first Jewish congregation of Michigan.
Temple Beth El is Michigan’s first Jewish congregation. Its origin dates back to 1850 when there were 60 Jews in Detroit. Sarah and Isaac Cozens invited eleven other Detroit Jewish families to meet in their home. From that gathering, the Beth El Society was born. Since then, the congregation has grown to over 1200 families. Throughout its history, Temple Beth El has taken an innovative and leading role in building Jewish life, not only within its own congregation, but within the larger Detroit community as well. Temple Beth El was the first to establish a Detroit Jewish school, to secure ground for the first Detroit Jewish cemetery and to form Detroit’s first centralized Jewish philanthropic agency. Although Beth El began as an Orthodox congregation, it was are also among the first congregations in America to have embraced Reform Judaism and are counted among the original charter members of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, now known as the Union For Reform Judaism, the central body of North American Reform Judaism.
The forward thinking attitude of Temple Beth El is illustrated by the bold architecture of its current building which was designed by Minoru Yamasaki, one of the most prominent architects of the 20th Century. Among other noteworthy projects, Yamasaki designed the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center and the North Shore Congregation Israel of Glencoe, Illinois. He and fellow architect Edward Durell Stone are generally considered to be the two master practitioners of the New Formalism architectural style.