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Photo: Louis A. DavidsonDuring its 170 year history the congregation, its leaders, its members, and its buildings have played an important role in Jewish history, American social justice movements, and architectural history.

Established in 1847, Kehilath Anshe Ma-arav (KAM) is the oldest synagogue in Illinois. Although KAM began as an Orthodox congregation, our members began to reform their practice almost from the beginning. In 1852, conflict over issues of Reform and traditional observances led to the creation of a new congregation, B'nai Sholom. In 1874, KAM became a founding member of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, now known as the Union for Reform Judaism.

 Isaiah Temple was organized in 1895, with Temple Israel following in 1896. Finally, in 1906 Temple Israel merged with Congregation B'nai Sholom, and relocated to the South Side. In 1924, Isaiah Temple dedicated they're brand new Hyde Park Building, and a month later merged with B'nai Sholom Temple Israel, taking the name Temple Isaiah Israel. In 1971, KAM and Temple Isaiah Israel merged, and took our current name. 

We have enjoyed strong rabbinic leadership over the decades by many rabbis, including:

  • Liebman Adler
  • Isaac Moses
  • Joseph Stolz
  • Tobias Schanfarber
  • Gerson Levi
  • Solomon Freehof
  • Jacob Weinstein
  • Morton Berman
  • Hayim Perelmuter
  • Simeon Maslin
  • Arnold Jacob Wolf

Four of our rabbis were elected president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the rabbinic arm of the Reform movement. Rabbi Weinstein's commitment to social justice inspired KAM to become one of the leading social action congregations in the country. Rabbi's Weinstein and Perelmuter resisted the lure of the suburbs and refused to see KAM and Isaiah Israel abandon the Hyde Park neighborhood during an era of social change. In recent years, we have continued that commitment through nationally-recognized food justice and refugee rights programs. Rabbi Arnold Jacob Wolf continued that commitment and also challenged Reform Jews to recover tradition. 

Before their merger, both KAM and Isaiah Temple built sanctuaries that have become important landmarks of architectural and cultural history. KAM's Adler and Sullivan designed sanctuary in Bronzeville later became home to Pilgrim Baptist Church - birthplace of Gospel music. Isaiah Temple's first South Side sanctuary was later purchased by Ebenezer Missionary Baptist, an offshoot of one of Chicago's oldest African American Baptist congregations. 

Our current home at 1100 East Hyde Park Boulevard was designed by Alfred S Alschuler and named an official Chicago landmark in 1977. The recommendation for landmark status emphasized the congregation's contribution to Chicago's cultural, economic, social, and historical heritage.Photo: Louis A. Davidson

The congregation also has a strong and distinct tradition of music. German-born Max Janowski, a leading composer of 20th century Jewish music, served as music director from 1938 until his death. 

Proud of our heritage while looking to the future, KAM Isaiah Israel continues to meld tradition and innovation within the Reform movement.



Due to COVID-19, we have temporarily suspended tours of our historic building. To be notified when the building opens again, please call 773.924.1234 or email

Mon, September 27 2021 21 Tishrei 5782