This Month in History

A Temple is Dedicated, May 12, 1876

On May 12, 1876, Wilmington’s Temple of Israel—the first synagogue in North Carolina—was formally dedicated.  

In the nineteenth century, Wilmington was a center of transportation, population, and trade, and it attracted some immigrants. Before the Civil War, a wave of immigrants came to the US from what is now Germany. Jewish Germans were among those to make the journey. Some ended up in Wilmington, because of its business opportunities. Men such as Solomon Bear (1830s-1904) and his two brothers Samuel and Marcus, came to the city and set up mercantile ventures.  After the Civil War, the Jewish population grew in numbers, and there were approximately 200 members of the community by 1880. 

To form a synagogue, ten Jewish males over the age of 13 are required to join together into a group, known as a minyan. Wilmington’s Jewish men formed a minyan and built their first temple in the 1870s. The Temple of Israel’s cornerstone was laid July 15, 1875, and on May 12, 1876, the temple was dedicated. Solomon Bear was president of the Temple of Israel from 1872 to 1904, and he was active in the efforts that went into raising the funds to build the Temple. 

Solomon Bear received a commemorative cane at the temple’s dedication ceremony. More than one hundred years later, one of Solomon’s grandchildren, Henry Sternberger (1907-1984), left the exquisite cane to the Museum in his will.  

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Previous Columns

March: March is Women's History Month
January: Pembroke Jones and the Playground Movement
December: A Day's News, December 12, 1936
October: Fire Prevention Week, October 8 through 14, 1972
Life Around Wilmington, August 30, 1951
The Competition Heats Up June 18, 1884
The Kenan Memorial Fountain gets a facelift, April 14, 2005
Women’s History Month, March 8
January 2022: 
Two Brothers Honored on One Memorial Stone, January 30, 1917

Temple of Israel watercolor, 1890

Temple of Israel Watercolor

Temple of Israel, 1900

Temple of Israel, 1900

Solomon Bear’s Temple of Israel cane, 1876

Solomon Bear’s Temple of Israel cane, 1876