Our Roots

Congregation Established

Originally called the San Jose Bickur Cholim Society (“visiting the sick”), Temple Emanu-El was established in the mid-1800s. Founders worked to “assist the needy and sick and for the burial of the dead for furtherance of our Holy Religion and Language.”

The original letter requesting the purchase of the Temple cemetery

original letter

The Temple's first meeting place, Old City Hall.

first meeting place

Masonic Hall, which served as acting synagogue building for a time.

Masonic Hall
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First Building Dedicated

Located on the corner of Third and San Antonio Streets, the first building served as the center of Jewish life in San Jose.

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Fire Destroys Building

In 1940, a devastating fire destroyed the building. It was a complete loss except for a few items.

San Jose firefighters heroically trying to save our Temple.

Torahs, the Ner Tamid (eternal lamp) from the sanctuary, and stained glass windows were rescued from the tragic fire. These historical artifacts enhance the beauty of our current facility: The Ner Tamid is still glowing in our sanctuary, and the stained glass windows adorn the chapel.

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Current Building Dedicated

Our University Avenue facility, where the congregation still resides, was dedicated in 1948. Members renamed our congregation Temple Emanu-El, meaning "God be with us."


The invitation to the groundbreaking ceremony.

groundbreaking invite

The groundbreaking ceremony.


The construction site.

Construction Site
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Religious School Built
1950s & 1960s

Temple Emanu-El built a three-story religious school to accommodate the area's growing Jewish community. In 1976 it was named The Rabbi Joseph and Rosalie Gitin Religious School, in honor the congregation's esteemed rabbi and his wife.


Ed Building

The education facility was a labor of love thanks to many members of the congregation.

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125th Anniversary

The synagogue is honored by the White House with best wishes sent via a personal letter from President Ronald Reagan. The synagogue also receives a congratulatory letter from Governor George Deukmejian and a significant notice in the National Congressional Record.

President Reagan's Letter


Governor Deukmejian's Letter


Temple Emanu-El in the Congressional Record

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City Commendation

Temple Emanu-El and Senior Rabbi Dana Magat were honored by the City of San Jose with a commendation for our pioneering support and twinning relationship with Temple Emanu-El in Odessa Ukraine. More details on our Torah and computer infrastructure donation to this congregation may be found in this article from Reform Judaism Magazine and .

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