5 Windsor Dr
Charleston, SC 2940

Year Built: Original – 1955 | Current – 1979

Architect: Original – Unknown | Current – Benjamin Hirsch

Years Active: 1947 – Present

Architectural Overview

Congregation History

Beginning Again
Synagogue Emanu-El traces its origins  to a renegade faction of Brith Sholom. In February 1947, Rabbi Solomon D. Goldfarb made the decision to resign over his  frustration with the congregation’s inability to accept change. In May, congregants hired Rabbi Hyman A. Rabinowitz. Rabbi Rabinowitz was a Conservative rabbi who had experience with Orthodox synagogues.  Many hoped that he would be able to implement “just the right amount of change.”1

Edward Kronsberg and Louis Lesser wondered if the congregation would stay steadfast in their orthodoxy at the behest of the aging East European minority or if they would be able to begin a different path. On July 13, 1947, congregants held a meeting to determine whether or not the Brith Sholom Constitution should be amended to allow for family seating and whether or not the synagogue should only hire rabbis from the Conservative Jewish Theological Seminary. The amendments failed, 100 to 72 against. Immediately following the decision, Kronsberg, Lesser, and eight other officers and trustees resigned from office.

The disenchanted soon gathered under Emanu-El, the newly formed Conservative congregation, with services starting Rosh Hashanah 1947 though they did not yet have a physical space to call their own. In an act of solidarity, Brith Sholom loaned two Torah scrolls for the High Holidays, but this act of charity was not long lived. When Emanu-El did not return the scrolls immediately, Brith Sholom’s longtime leader Sam Berlin sent a “curt request” for their imminent return.2

The congregation consisted of the Kronsberg and Steinberg families, Nathan Goldberg, Milton Banov, Hyman Rephan, and 73 other charter members. Macey Kronsberg served as the first president and the first rabbi was Lewis Weintraub.3 Soon after the separation, the group was able to purchase some land, and Matthew “Mattie” Steinberg’s family bought a former surplus Army chapel to use as a makeshift sanctuary on that same plot of land. A few years later, in the early 50s, Leon Steinberg “purchased a site off Highway 61 for use as a cemetery.”4

Not wanting to focus solely on organized religion, the women of Brith Sholom established the Sisterhood Emanu-El, which continues to support various activities and rituals. Anita Steinberg served as the first president of the Sisterhood and under her helm, they established a  Sunday school in October 1947.5 The congregation also hired a cantor, Cantor Jacob Renzer of England. Three months passed between his anticipated start date and his actual arrival at Emanu-El due to the visa process. 

As the congregation grew, the Army chapel soon became too small. The new building was designed to have a cathedral-like sanctuary and to be large enough to hold 1,000 people. In 1954, construction began on Gordon Street and the building was officially opened on December 18, 1955. Rabbi Gerlad Wolpe assumed leadership following Rabbi Weintraub’s departure and he served for four years. From 1958 until 1960, Rabbi Hillel Millgram led Emanu-El and then Rabbi Eliezer Levi took over from 1960 until 1962. Between 1962 and 1963, Rabbi A. Mauskopf led for a brief period, and then in 1964, Rabbi Jordan Taxon took his place. Taxon was there for 10 years until 1974, when Emanu-El hired Rabbi Charles Sherman.

Throughout this time, the congregation continued to grow and more and more families moved west of the Ashley River. They decided to build a new synagogue in Parkshore and construction began in 1977. On December 9, 1979, the newly-hired Rabbi Alan Cohen officiated the dedication ceremony. In between selling the Gordon Street synagogue and the opening of the West Ashley location, services were held temporarily at the Jewish Community Center and High Holidays were celebrated at the Gaillard Auditorium.6 Cohen led Emanu-El until 1986, when Rabbi Rosenblum took over. He was there for a brief period before they hired Rabbi Friendman.

Rabbi Chezi Zionce was hired in 2002 and served until 2006. In 2007, Rabbi Robert Judd took over. At that point, over 345 families were members of Emanu-El. There is an active Men’s Club and Sisterhood along with groups for children and a religious school. Rabbi Adam J. Rosenbaum led both Emanu-El from 2009 until July 2020. Rabbi Evan Ravski joined the synagogue in July 2020.


1. Jeffrey S. Gurock, Orthodoxy in Charleston: Brith Sholom Beth Israel & American Jewish History (Charleston, S.C.: College of Charleston Library in association with Brith Sholom Beth Israel, 2004).
2. Jeffrey S. Gurock.
3. Joan Halushka, “Synagogue Emanu-El at 60,” Jewish Historical Society of South Carolina, Spring 2008, https://jhssc.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/2008_Spring_JHSSC_Newsletter.pdf.
4. Joan Halushka.
5. Joan Halushka; Jewish Heritage Collection: Oral history interview with Lewis Weintraub, 1997, https://lcdl.library.cofc.edu/lcdl/catalog/lcdl:36580.
6. Joan Halushka, “Synagogue Emanu-El at 60.”

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