History or comments

The first house of Jewish worship in New Hampshire.

The first Jewish residents of Portsmouth were Abraham and Rachel Isaac who arrived from Prussia in 1789. The Isaacs established a store selling dry goods, clothing and household items. Even though the store was closed on Saturdays it thrived. By 1900, over 100 years after the arrival of the Isaacs, there were only 16 Jewish families in Portsmouth. They worked as cobblers, peddlers, shopkeepers and junk dealers. Some of the tailors put their hands to sail making.

In 1905 the Portsmouth Jewish community rented two rooms on the second floor of a building on Portsmouth’s State Street. One room became Temple Israel and the other a community meeting room. By 1910 Temple Israel had 103 men, women and children participating, which required more than just two rooms. The First Methodist Church was purchased for $7,000 and converted to a synagogue which was dedicated in 1912. .

The synagogue was redecorated in 1920. In 1940 the synagogue expanded into an adjacent building for use as a Hebrew school and hired a full-time rabbi. With a membership of 125 families in 1967 a Community Center building containing a social hall, kitchen, library, classrooms and offices was added. Egalitarian Temple Israel has enjoyed steady growth with membership of over 300 families representing more than 750 people. The Hebrew school now has an enrollment of over 100 children.