TIMELINE OF CHAMPAIGN-URBANA JEWISH COMMUNITY HISTORY—
1854 – Solomon Bernstein is the first permanent Jewish settler in Urbana. In 1855 he marries Fanny Wertheimer in Ohio and brings her to Urbana.
1857 – Fanny Bernstein, daughter of Fanny and Solomon Bernstein, is the first Jewish child born in the community.
1861 – The brothers Nathan and Abraham Stern are the first permanent Jewish settlers in Champaign.
1867 – Ahavath Achim, a benevolent burial society, is formed in Champaign. It merges with B’nai B’rith in 1887.
1868 – Ahavath Achim buys land for a Jewish Cemetery at the SE corner of Cunningham & Perkins in Urbana.
1870 – Hattie Kahn, daughter of Hanna and Nathan Kahn of Mattoon, dies on 1 August at the age of 1 month, 25 days. Her grave is the first in the new Jewish cemetery and the oldest marked Jewish burial in the community.
1877 – B’nai B’rith Grand Prairie Lodge 281 is founded. It meets in the “B’nai B’rith Hall” – 3 rooms above Joseph Kuhn’s Champaign store on Main Street. B’nai B’rith opens its membership to women late in the 20th century. Grand Prairie Lodge is presently the oldest C-U Jewish organization still in operation.
1889 – Ladies’ Hebrew Benevolent Society is founded and remains active until about 1891.
1894 – Jewish Ladies Social Circle is founded. It provides leadership in Jewish and community philanthropy until disbanding after the death of its founder, Addie Bernstein Cohen, in May 1943.
1895 – Yom Kippur services are performed in a room above the store at the SW corner of Neil & Church in Champaign on 28 September 1895 — the first recorded public Jewish religious service in the community.
1898 – The Urbana Jewish cemetery is closed and all burials are moved to a Jewish section of Mount Hope Cemetery in Champaign. The new cemetery is supported by the Jewish Ladies Social Circle and B’nai B’rith Grand Prairie Lodge. In 1912, its operation is taken over by the Champaign-Urbana Hebrew Congregation.
1904 – Sinai Temple is founded as The Champaign and Urbana Hebrew Congregation on 7 February 1904. It meets in space rented from local churches with services led by a variety of visiting and part-time rabbis.
1905 – Sabbath School is begun in April by the Jewish Ladies Social Circle.
1907 – The first community Passover Seder is organized by Hannah Berolzheimer, an early director of the Sabbath School.
1907 – Ivrim Society, the first Jewish students’ club, is created at University of Illinois. In 1912 it becomes an affiliate of the national Menorah Society.
1912 – Orthodox congregation B’nai Israel is founded. Active until 1954, the congregation first meets in rooms above the Champaign Commercial Bank. It later moves to a rented house near Third & White in Champaign.
1914 – Champaign-Urbana Hebrew Congregation changes its name to Sinai Temple on 4 January and affiliates with the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC) which later became the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ).
1918 – First permanent Jewish house of worship dedicated on 31 January 1918. The Sinai Temple building is completed at the SW corner of State & Clark in Champaign on a lot purchased in 1913.
1918 – Sinai Temple Ladies Auxiliary, later renamed the Sinai Temple Sisterhood, is formed by the Jewish Ladies Social Circle. Sisterhood membership is open to all members of the Jewish community. It takes on the financial and operational burden of supporting the Sunday School and Temple kitchen, as well as many other community and international philanthropies.
1923 – University of Illinois Hillel Foundation (the world’s first Hillel Foundation) is founded. It is directed by Benjamin Frankel who also begins serving as the first permanent (though part-time) Rabbi for Sinai Temple.
1926 – National B’nai B’rith funds the expansion of Hillel as a national organization. Rabbi Benjamin Frankel is appointed as National Director of Hillel Foundation and operates the national office from Urbana.
1929 – After the death at age 30 of Rabbi Benjamin Frankel, Dr Abram Sachar (later president of Brandeis University) takes over as national and local director of Hillel and as part-time religious leader of Sinai Temple. He serves in these capacities until 1947.
1929 – Local chapter of Hadassah is organized. It is formally chartered in 1934 and continues operation until the mid-1990s.
1934 – Champaign-Urbana Jewish Federation is formed to support local, national, and international Jewish programs.
1950 – First permanent building for the Hillel Foundation at the University of Illinois is completed at the SE corner of John & Fifth in Champaign.
1951 – Rabbi Bernard Martin, a former part-time assistant rabbi at Hillel and Sinai, becomes Sinai Temple’s first full-time rabbi. Except for 2 years spent as a military chaplain during the Korean War, he serves until 1957.
1971 – Sinai Temple’s building at State & Clark in Champaign is partially destroyed by fire in January.
1975 – Windsor Road Sinai Temple building is dedicated on 11 April. Its Litman Library is named in memory of long-time Temple members Rachel Frank Litman and Simon Litman. “Ray” Litman was the first women to deliver a sermon for Rosh Hashana services in the United States (in Spokane, Washington in 1890).
1981 – Committee for Jewish Culture and Society begins programs at the University of Illinois.
1994 – Sinai Temple Sisterhood reorganizes as Women of Sinai. While continuing support of the Temple kitchen and Religious School, it passes on responsibility as the major fund-raiser for these operations to Sinai Temple.
1998 – Women of Sinai Temple officially dissolves on 17 May 1998.
1999 – Sinai Temple adds a new sanctuary and school wing.
2004 – Sinai Temple celebrates its 100th year in February, 2004.
Timeline Compiled by Allen Avner