Explore Jewish Life in Statesville

Statesville Temple Emanuel

The Statesville Jewish community, which dates to antebellum days, has waxed and waned with the changing local economy.  Jews have served as civic, social, and mercantile leaders of the small Piedmont town.  Located at the intersections of Interstates 40 and 77, with easy access to Charlotte and Winston-Salem, Statesville has been a commercial crossroads.   Community life centers around the historic, picturesque Congregation Emanuel, dating to 1892. The small but vibrant community is linked to the nearby Jewish Council of Lake Norman for cultural and educational activities and Temple Israel in Charlotte for religious affairs.

Local Jews founded a congregation in 1883 and built a synagogue nine years later, still in use.  The congregation closed with community decline in 1927, but revived in the 1950s.  At first a Reform congregation, it later affiliated with the Conservative movement.

The Institute of Southern Jewish Life highlights the German-born Wallace brothers who arrived in the 1850s and established the world’s largest herbarium. East European immigrant L. Gordon started as a junk peddler in 1917, and his company now ranks among the east coast’s largest iron and metal dealers.

Hear Dr. Gary Freeze of Catawba College present on this fascinating and important enterprise in North Carolina’s economic history.