The Temple Mickve Israel is the only purely Gothic revival synagogue in the United States. Founded by a group of Sephardic Jews who landed in Savannah just a few months after General Oglethorpe, the congregation received a perpetual charter from Governor Edward Telfair in 1790. They represent the third-oldest Jewish congregation in the United States. In 1820, the congregation built the first synagogue in Georgia at the corner of Liberty and Whitaker Streets. The present synagogue, which looks more like a church than a synagogue, was designed by Henry G. Harrison and consecrated in 1878.
Early and recent documents and objects relating to Jewish life in Savannah and Georgia are on display in the Temple Micke Israel’s Museum. Of special interest are the temple’s original 15th century Torah and letters to the congregation from presidents Washington, Jefferson, and Madison.
Text from the Temple Mickve Israel historical marker:
CONGREGATION MICKVE ISRAEL
The oldest Congregation now practicing Reform Judaism in the United States, Mickve Israel was founded by a group of Jews, mainly of Spanish-Portuguese extraction, which landed at Savannah, July 11, 1733, five months after the establishment of the Colony of Georgia.
The Congregation was incorporated in perpetuity by a special Act of the Georgia Legislature on November 20, 1790. After having worshipped in various temporary quarters for almost a century, in 1820 the Congregation built its own Synagogue -- the first in Georgia -- at the Northeast corner of Liberty and Whitaker Streets. The present Synagogue was consecrated on April 11, 1878.
In 1789 the Congregation received a letter from President George Washington which stated in part: "May the same wonder-working Deity who long since delivering the Hebrews from their Egyptian oppressors, planted them in the promised land -- whose providential agency has lately been conspicuous in establishing these United States as an independent nation -- still continue to water them with the dews of Heaven and to make the inhabitants of every denomination participate in the temporal and spiritual blessings of that people whose God is Jehovah.
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Temple Mickve Israel