About Congregation B'nai Israel

Congregation B’nai Israel’s story is aligned with the slow and steady growth of the City Of Albuquerque.  The arrival of the Santa Fe railroad in the 1880’s promised merchants and small businessmen new-found prosperity.  However, they would have to risk leaving their urban conclaves to start over in the wide open spaces of the Southwest.

Jews whose roots were in the Orthodox traditions of Eastern European were among this entrepreneurial group.  By 1920, a group of Albuquerque Jewish storekeepers met in the parlor of a local mens’ clothing store owner and made the decision to start their own congregation, apart from the Reform congregation that German-Jews had established here over thirty years earlier.

Originally, the congregation met in rented quarters for many years.  Times were tough.  And the Depression years strained the finances of the slowly growing congregation.  By 1940, enough funds were collected to build a synagogue on the outskirts of the burgeoning downtown district.  The World War II years brought dozens of health-professionals, engineers, university professors, and seekers of a dry and healthy climate to the city.  By the 1960’s, it became evident to all that the original shul was bursting at the seams and a new place of worship was needed.

Land was purchased in an established neighborhood, and a new synagogue was constructed with a sanctuary that remains awe-inspiring to this day.  Through the 1970s up to the turn of the century, the congregation grew and prospered.  A new education wing was added, doubling the size of the Religious School.  The rabbi, Isaac Celnik served the growing congregation for almost 30 years.  Rabbi Arthur Flicker served until 2016.

But times were changing.  Other congregations formed, drawing away potential members.  Young people moved away, lured by opportunity in larger cities which resulted in empty-nesters withdrawing their membership, making some doubt that the shul was still viable.  Shul leadership met the challenges by offering innovative programs that would attract new members as well as meet the needs of members of all ages and interests.

The congregation, now over 100 years old, is confidently set to meet the challenges of the future and is looking forward to the leadership of a new rabbi who will take us to the next step.

The charm and allure of the Southwest is evident in our building, our practices, our sense of spirituality.

When praying in the sanctuary, one can get the feel of the desert of our ancestors in two ways.  The shape of the sanctuary is as of a tent – praying under a tent with our biblical ancestors. The light is reflective of the sense of space that one gets in the land of Israel and in the landscape of New Mexico.

Our recently upgraded Kosher kitchen plays a unique gastronomic role.  Our Kiddush lunch reflects the tastes of the Southwest with enchiladas, green chili latkes and more.  The whole community takes advantage of our kitchen staff’s ability to provide kosher meals for individuals and events.  During the pandemic, Shabbat meals can be ordered by the whole community.

Our premier gift shop in New Mexico features hand-crafted Tallitot with a southwest flair made by a Jewish Navajo artist.

In normal times, Summer Shabbat services in the nearby Sandia mountains offer a unique experience.

Congregation B’nai Israel is the oldest Conservative synagogue in New Mexico, celebrating its 100th anniversary.  Since the pandemic, B’nai Israel offers virtual services for members and non-members, for Shabbat, High Holidays and all other services as well as education to all generations.

We are:

Only Conservative congregation in Albuquerque.
Regularly scheduled weekday Minyan
Sanctuary and synagogue are on the National register of historic places
Conduct telephone services for those that do not have access to technology
Very active and involved Men’s club and Sisterhood
Only Kosher caterer in Albuquerque uses our newly updated kitchen facilities. The caterer provides kosher meals on Shabbat and Holidays and works closely with the Sisterhood to provide meals to our first responders and our homebound members.

Please see our website to read our congregational mission and vision statements.

  • Senior Rabbi

    Congregation B'nai Israel
    New Mexico
    • Full Time
    • 1 month ago