In 1862 Bavarian-born Michael Grausman and his wife, Regina Einstetta, moved from Warrenton, North Carolina to Raleigh. This was the beginning of Jewish culture and religion in our city. Along with making uniforms for soliders during the Civil War, the Grausmans were involved in war services and charities, while raising a family in the Jewish tradition.
Not until after the Civil War did other Jews come to Raleigh. It was about 1874 when the Grausmans turned the nursery room of their home into a synagogue and classroom. Mr. Grausman assumed the responsibility of teaching Jewish history and Hebrew. This became known as the first synagogue of Raleigh. Some time in the 1880’s, the group outgrew the Grausman nursery, and a room over Rosenbaum’s Millinery on Fayetteville Street became the second synagogue.
In 1912, the Jewish people of Raleigh met and formed the Hebrew Sunday School. The meeting place was moved to new quarters over Mr. M. Rosenthal’s store at the corner of Wilmington and Hargett Streets. This organization later became known as the Raleigh Orthodox Hebrew Congregation.
The early congregation included both the Reform and Orthodox Jews of the town. Therefore, much of the early business was directed toward reconciling their religious viewpoints, in an effort to remain a single congregation. In 1913, to satisfy their social needs, the congregation set up a YMHA (Young Men's Hebrew Association) group. In December of 1913, the synagogue members met for a Hanukkah party at which they held a rather unique auction. To the highest bidder went the privilege of suggesting a new name for the synagogue. The name chosen was House of Jacob. It was the name of our synagogue for the next 35 years.
The House of Jacob
The House of Jacob was a congregation of thirty or forty devoted and loyal Jews. Around 1923, the building was established. It was a two-story house located on South East Street. Services were held upstairs, and the rabbi and his family lived downstairs. The congregation would often pray surrounded by the aroma of delicious food and sweets from the family’s kitchen.
In May 1949, a ground breaking ceremony was held on West Johnson Street, to build a synagogue that would serve the needs of the growing community. The name Beth Meyer Synagogue was established in memory of Meyer Dworsky, a member of the Raleigh Jewish community who came to Raleigh before World War I. All of his children were born here and his family was active in the synagogue. He died in 1943. On May 20, 1951, the new synagogue building was dedicated.
Our First Building
The decade of 1973-1983 was one of growth, planning, and building for Beth Meyer. The Jewish population was expanding rapidly and was projected for at least a 5 per cent annual growth rate. The congregation examined their future in terms of their growth and the adequacy of the West Johnson Street Synagogue site. They determined that a new facility had to be built.
The twelve-acre tract on Newton Road was purchased in early 1980 and ground broken in the spring of 1982. On Sunday, March 20, 1983, the Torahs were carried under a huppah* in proud procession from the old sanctuary to the new. The Torahs were placed in the ark* and the mezuzzah* was affixed to the doorpost. The congregants of Beth Meyer once again had a new spiritual home.
In 1983, Beth Meyer had a membership of about 200 families. The current main building was designed to accommodate the future of the congregation. Members were proud that they finally had adequate classrooms, a beautiful library, a spacious sanctuary, and social facilities for youth and adults.
Expansion on Newton Road
By 2009, Beth Meyer had grown to a congregation of over 400 families. Ground was broken for a new education building. In the fall of 2010, the Alice and Daniel Satisky Education building was dedicated. This building added space for an expanded preschool, a larger library, a second social hall, and 12 classrooms and offices for the Naomi and Ken Kramer Religious School.
The following year, the congregation "summered" in the Education Building, allowing for much-needed updates to the main building. Updates were made to the sanctuary and social hall, the gift shop was moved and enlarged, and much of the lower level (the old preschool space) was remodeled to house Libi Eir Community Mikveh.
Beth Meyer Today
We have grown into a congregation of over 460 family member units. We are proud of our legacy of volunteerism at Beth Meyer; in fact, it is a major part of how we define ourselves. Volunteers, young and old, are involved in many aspects of synagogue life including chanting Torah/Haftarah, leading religious services, and teaching classes.
Entering the 21st Century, our congregational community strives to grow religiously and spiritually. We enthusiastically combine our talents, our neshamot*, and our ruah*, to grow as Conservative Jews.
Hazak, Hazak v’Nithazeik - Be strong, be strong, and may we be strengthened
glossary of terms:
huppah - a canopy, traditionally used at weddings
ark - receptacle, or ornamental closet housing the Torah scrolls
mezzuzah - a case holding parchment scrolls, attached to the doorpost of a home or synagogue
neshamot - souls
ruah - spirit