Temple Mishkan Israel is a two-story Romanesque Revival building with two symmetrical towers and a raised octagonal roofed sanctuary in historic Selma, Alabama. Selma Jews established Congregation Mishkan Israel in 1870. They conducted services at private residences. Soon after founding, the congregation affiliated with the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, the national organization for Reform Judaism. After renting an Episcopal church for 16 years, the congregation acquired a parsonage and schoolhouse on Broad Street. They decided to build a permanent temple on the site. Construction was completed in December of 1899 and Temple Mishkan Israel was dedicated the following February.
Jews were among the early settlers of Selma and were vital to the economic growth of the city. Throughout the 19th century and most of the 20th century, downtown Selma was predominantly Jewish merchants including Teppers, Kaysers, Liepolds, Rothchilds, Adler Furniture, Benish and Meyer Tobacco, Siegel Automotive Company, Barton’s Bargain Store, Bendersky’s and Eagles. They were also strongly represented in local government and city activities. Three Selma mayors were Jewish and members of the congregation at Mishkan Israel.
From 1910 to 1930, the congregation consisted of 80 members. Its membership peaked at 104 households in 1940. Since then, the congregation has slowly dwindled. There is an ongoing effort to preserve Temple Mishkan Israel and perhaps create a museum honoring Selma’s Jewish heritage. If you would like to contribute, you can do so here.