Our Building & History

Photo: Louis A. Davidson

During 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. In 1874, the congregation became a founding member of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, now known as the Union for Reform Judaism. Four of our rabbis have served as president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis.

Since the 1950s, Kehilath Anshe Ma'ariv (KAM) has been one of the leading social action congregations in the country. The congregation’s rabbis resisted the lure of the suburbs and refused to see KAM and Isaiah Israel abandon the city during an era of social change. In recent years, we have continued that commitment through nationally-recognized food justice and refugee rights programs.

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.

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. 

Photo: Louis A. Davidson

In 1874, KAM became a founding member of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, now the Union for Reform Judaism. Both Isaiah Temple and Temple Israel began as Reform congregations. 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. Rabbis 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. Rabbi Arnold Jacob Wolf continued that commitment and also challenged Reform Jews to recover tradition.

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