Whenever the first Jew arrives, there is always a Jew there to greet them.OLD JEWISH SAYING
The first Jews in the area were traders and peddlers. Later arrivals come as merchants and professionals. Daniel Robinson, a watchmaker, writes to his son in the early 1900s — saying Asheville would be a nice place for him to move to from Texas.
IN THE BEGINNING…
Although incorporated as a town in 1797, Asheville doesn’t really start flourishing until the 1880’s — when it is linked by America’s burgeoning new railroads to other cities and towns.
The first documented Jews arrive in Asheville, NC in the 1860’s.
1797 to the 1880's
OUR FIRST CONGREGATION.
Congregation Beth HaTephila is founded. The following year, the Congregation purchases a section of Riverside Cemetery.
THEN, A SECOND ONE.
Bikur Cholim Congregation is formed. By 1905, the estimated Jewish population of Asheville is about a hundred. In 1950, Bikur Cholim changes its name to Beth Israel.
The first Jews arrive in Hendersonville. In 1922, Agudas Israel is founded.
LOOKING AFTER OTHERS.
Federated Charities is organized, and later changes to the WNC Jewish Federation.
A PLACE for EVERYONE.
The Jewish Community Center (JCC) opens its doors at 236 Charlotte Street in Asheville. The current core facility is constructed in 1993. The latest addition and year-round swimming pool is completed in 2018.
AROUND THE MOUNTAINS.
Temple of the High Country is founded in Boone, later building a synagogue in 2008.
The Mountain Synagogue in Franklin is started.
The Center for Jewish Studies is created at the University of North Carolina – Asheville (UNCA).
And, the Center for Judaic, Holocaust, and Peace Studies is founded at Appalachian State University in 2002 — to develop new educational opportunities for students, teachers, and the community.
The Brevard Jewish Community is formed.
Carolina Jews for Justice / West Chapter is founded as a result of the first Mountain Moral Monday event in Asheville.
More on Jewish History in Western NC…
For more in-depth interviews and accounts, go to Jewish Life in Western North Carolina — an online collection of archival materials housed in the D.H. Ramsey Library’s Special Collections at the University of North Carolina at Asheville.
You can pore over A Home in Shalom’ville: The History of Asheville’s Jewish Community by Sharon C. Fahrer, for sale at the Jewish Community Center (JCC). Or, also see a more complete History timeline from the book here.