The oldest synagogue still in use in Montana, the Congregation B’nai Israel Temple was built in 1903. The Jewish community of Butte dates to 1875 when two immigrants arrived to open a fruit and cigar store and a restaurant. Butte’s first Mayor, Henry Jacobs, was one of the town’s earlier Jewish settlers.
As the population grew, three congregations developed to serve the community. Two orthodox congregations were ultimately disbanded, and the more progressive reformed movement, which began in 1892 in Butte, eventually became the sole congregation in town.
Congregation B’nai Israel was organized in 1897, but before this structure was erected, the group worshipped in the Carpenter’s Union Hall and in the Mountain View Methodist Church. The Northern Pacific Railway provided land at the corner of Washington and Galena for the synagogue, and construction began in 1897.
This synagogue is one of few to embody the traditional Moorish architectural style. Significant restoration in 2001-2003 accompanied the structure’s centennial. The large circular window at the
front of the synagogue is original to the structure, and was dedicated to Elias and Mina Oppenheimer. Three smaller arched windows are located at the back.
As is typical of stained glass in synagogues, the windows of the B’nai Israel Temple do not feature human figures. This is to comply with the commandment to not make graven images. Portraying humans or animals in the windows would be considered idolatry.