Our History

K.K. Bene Israel, familiarly known as Rockdale Temple, is the oldest congregation west of the Allegheny Mountains. Founded in 1824, Rockdale Temple has been at the forefront of Reform Judaism in America and was one of the founding congregations of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.

Rockdale Temple was founded by a small group of Jews who had settled in Cincinnati, then a frontier town.  Their first meeting took place in 1824. These leaders recognized the need for a synagogue and efforts were made to raise funds for a building. In 1836 our first home at Sixth and Broadway was consecrated. In 1852 another synagogue was built on the same site. As the Jewish community grew and moved to other parts of the city, the congregation also moved, first to Eighth and Mound Streets, then to Rockdale and Harvey Avenues and, in 1969, to the present location on Ridge Road in Amberley Village.

For thirty-one years, readers or cantors conducted services. In 1855, Dr. Max Lilienthal was elected as our first permanent rabbi. Under Dr. Lilienthal’s leadership many reforms were introduced into the previously orthodox service and the congregation was actively involved in the beginnings of the Reform movement. Since that time there have been nine rabbis and Rabbi Sigma Faye Coran now serves the congregation. Throughout the long history of the congregation, distinguished rabbis have relied on remarkably able and committed lay leadership. Rabbis and members have participated actively in communal activities in the Jewish and general community.