About Temple Emanu-El of Dothan, AL
Emanu-El became a legally constituted body on January 30, 1929 after an organizational meeting on October 28, 1928 at the Dothan City Auditorium. Although Jewish families had resided in Dothan, Alabama since 1890, the only organized Jewish life consisted of worship services held irregularly at homes.
In January 1929, the members purchased a lot on North Park Avenue on which to erect a house of worship. The Temple cornerstone was laid on October 27, 1940, and the building dedicated September 14, 1941. The Torah scroll used was one rescued from a burning synagogue in Breslau, Germany, on Kristallnacht, November 10, 1938. During October 1941, the Temple affiliated with the Union of American Hebrew Congregations; we became members of the Union for Reform Judaism in 1941. A 1942 hand-written history of the congregation documents that the rise of Adolph Hitler “roused new consciousness of their religion in the Jews of the district.” During World War II, temple members invited Jewish soldiers stationed at nearby Camp Rucker to services and to their homes.
A major addition to our Temple building was completed in 1963. The expansion added a social hall, a larger kitchen, and more classrooms for the religious school, as well as a new study for the rabbi. The summer of 1996 saw the remodeling and refurbishing of the facility. During 2015, the entrance to the social hall was enlarged, the handicapped entrance was moved from a separate location to the main entrance so all congregants could enter together and the parking lot was completely rebuilt. This year we have just replaced major components of our electrical system and our air conditioning system. Renovations to our Sanctuary are underway this summer.
What are your congregation’s core values?
Our core values are a desire, along with our Rabbi, to worship, learn, and provide a spiritual and cultural sanctuary for the Jewish community in the Wiregrass Region. We want our congregation to be a place of acceptance and welcome for all of the Jewish people in Dothan and the surrounding area.
What are your congregation’s strengths?
· We have an incredible desire to pull together and continue to grow because we genuinely care about our community and one another. Our foundation of individuals and families is strong and committed. We have a wonderful facility which is debt free and well-maintained. We are financially viable now and for the foreseeable future. We have just completed a substantial renovation to our Sanctuary. The closeness within our Jewish community to one another – and our closeness to the non-Jewish community around us is amazing. We have a footprint in the Dothan community that belies our relatively small size.
· Dothan was founded in part by Jewish families. Consequently, Jews have always lived here and been welcomed and valued members in the larger community. The antisemitism which has plagued other Jewish communities in the past (and unfortunately in the present) has never been a threat here in Dothan.
· Temple Emanu-El is widely known for its efforts to assure the continuity of a vibrant Jewish community in Dothan. Through the generosity of one of our founding families, we have been successful in attracting several families from around the country to move to Dothan.
· Our Religious School is affiliated with the Institute for Southern Jewish Life, and we use their curriculum. We also participate in their professional development activities.
· We have a very active Sisterhood and Brotherhood at Temple Emanu-El. The Sisterhood is affiliated with the Women of Reform Judaism and is constantly striving to enhance the quality of life for our congregation through its many activities. The warmth, camaraderie, and friendships that result add special meaning to Sisterhood’s mission. Monthly programs expose its members to issues of social and community importance. Through its fundraising, the Sisterhood supports the Religious School, Purim activities, Oneg Shabbat, and many other special events. What Sisterhood does benefits its members as individuals, strengthens the Women of Reform Judaism on a local, regional, and national level and helps ensure the continuity of our Jewish community.
· The Temple Brotherhood is very active in participating with one of our most successful annual fundraisers – Deli Day. This is one of the most popular fundraising events in Dothan for Jews and non-Jews alike. Many of the major businesses and nonprofit organizations in town support this event. The brotherhood meets periodically for breakfast either at the Temple or at local restaurants. Members serve as ushers for the High Holidays, Neighbor Night, and other special events in the sanctuary. You will also find Brotherhood members cooking latkes for the Temple’s Annual Hannukah Dinner or preparing matzo balls for the Congregation Seder – and everyone loves it when the Brotherhood serves their famous Pancake Breakfast.