A Brief History of Temple Beth Israel and Eugene’s Jewish Community
By Amy Crain (edited for length)
The first recorded Jewish presence in Eugene dates back to the late 1860s when German Jews including Goodman Bettman and Samson Freundlich (Sam Friendly) came from Portland and built up successful mercantile businesses. In 1888, according to an article published in The Jewish Messenger in New York, Eugene had six Jewish families. A rabbi came from Portland for special occasions, and otherwise the families observed the holidays and kept the traditions amongst themselves. By the 1920s the original German Jewish population in Eugene had yielded to Jews of primarily Eastern European ancestry. Religious services were conducted by members of the community, who met at the home of Hyman Rubenstein at 231 West Eighth Street. The house was later remodeled as a synagogue, and Temple Beth Israel was founded in 1934 with approximately twenty families. This first building served the congregation through World War II.