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TEMPLE ADAS ISRAEL


Temple Adas Israel, a historic Jewish synagogue listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is located at the corner of Washington and College Streets in Brownsville. Built in 1881-82 and veneered in brick circa 1920, the Gothic Revival-style temple represents the impact of Jewish immigrants on West Tennessee towns and commerce in the years immediately following the Civil War. In the 1860s Joe Sternberg emigrated from Germany to the United States, eventually settling in Brownsville. He brought a century-old Torah, and by 1867 Jacob and Karoline Felsenthal were providing a room in their Brownsville home for the keeping of the Torah. Together with Sternberg and other Jewish residents in Haywood and neighboring counties, they organized the Adas Israel congregation. Until the dedication of Temple Adas Israel in 1882, the congregation met in local homes, including those of the Anker and Rothschild families. This Reformed Jewish congregation never had a rabbi and, from its founding to the 1970s, had only four lay readers. The Jewish community in rural and small town West Tennessee decreased dramatically in the twentieth century, but members kept Temple Adas Israel open. At the time of its listing on the National Register in 1979, Temple Adas Israel was the oldest such building in West Tennessee and possibly the oldest yet remaining in the state.

Carroll Van West, Middle Tennessee State University

See Also: HAYWOOD COUNTY; JEWISH SETTLEMENT IN TENNESSEE; RELIGION