Explore Jewish Life in Wilmington North Carolina
The port city of Wilmington is home to the state’s oldest Jewish community and its first synagogue, Temple of Israel, built in 1876 and still in use. Jews have resided in Wilmington since colonial days, but the growth of new industry, the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, and the New Hanover Regional Medical Center makes the community unprecedently large and diverse. Jewish retirees are also drawn to beachfront communities. The Reform temple was joined in 1898 by B’nai Israel, now a conservative congregation, and more recently a Chabad House and a havurah at St. James Plantation.
This historic Temple, the state’s first, is a downtown landmark noted for its striking Moorish and Neo-Gothic architecture. It is one of the oldest Reform congregations in the South. The congregation’s picturesque cemetery, dedicated in 1855, is also the state’s oldest.
The Institute of Southern Jewish Life history of Wilmington Jewry demonstrates the Jews’ civic integration. Aaron Lazarus, who arrived in 1795, was among the town’s most prosperous merchants—his house is a downtown landmark–while Sol Fishblate was elected mayor in 1878. Mayor B. D. Schwartz was a racial reconciler during the civil-rights era.