History or comments

The first Jewish congregation in Des Moines and first Reform congregation in Iowa.

In 1869 a minyan (group of ten or more men conducting a Jewish prayer service) met in a small room on the west side of the Des Moines River. The group evolved into Congregation B’nai Jeshurun, becoming the first synagogue to be established in Des Moines. The current building has a neo-classic façade sheathing a byzantine domed interior.

The following brief history is quoted from a publication of the Temple: Founded in 1873, Temple B’nai Jesurun was the first congregation to be established in Des Moines. Orthodox in observance at first, the congregation soon became a charter member of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, becoming the first Reform congregation in Iowa.

For its first five years, the congregation held its services in a rented hall at Second and Court Avenues. In 1878 it purchased a building at Seventh and Mulberry Streets, in which it continued worship for the next nine years. In 1883, feeling the need for larger quarters, the congregation purchased a lot at the southwest corner of Eighth and Pleasant Streets, on which it erected the first Temple.

The congregation worshiped there for 45 years. In 1931, under pressure of its greatly enlarged needs, the Temple began erection of its present house of worship at the corner of Grand Avenue and Country Club Boulevard. The present Temple was dedicated on February 29, 1932.

B’nai Jeshurun means “children of righteousness.” It is a poetic name for the Jewish people, often used in the Bible to designate the ideal character of Israel.