We are so proud to have celebrated over 100 years as a congregation in Little Rock, Arkansas. Below is a brief overview of our history.
Jews in Little Rock in the early 1900's were small in number but large in the inspiration which had been the outstanding characteristic of Eastern European Jewry. Men gathering in small stores, amid pickle barrels and bolts of cloth, to discuss their problems and the current news was a part of America's early life. This was an integral part of Jewish life in Little Rock during that time, and Rabbi Samuel Katzenellanbogan's store on Sherman Street (between 3rd and 4th) was such a gathering place. Holding services in the backs of stores and the instilling of a great determination against indifference in religious life were indeed a struggle... "Kol hascholah kashayr" ("Every beginning is hard")... but the peope were rewarded for their strength and courage when in 1904 a charter was signed and congregation Agudath Achim was founded. With more Jewish families moving west to the city of Little Rock, the congregation grew and saw the necessity of having a place to worship.
The congregation purchased their own building on January 9, 1908 - the first Agudath Achim Synagogue. For the sum of $8,000, the Second Baptist Church building at the corner of 8th and Louisiana was purchased. A Hebrew teacher, Mr. Epstein, was hired and cheder was held during the week. When Rabbi Katzenellanbogan decided to go to Israel with his family, Rabbi Eckstein soon replaced him.
The stone structure purchased from Second Baptist Church dated back to 1886, and it served the congregation well for 44 years. Although it had been remodeled during the time of Rabbi Joseph N. Shapiro, it was now outgrown and well worn. In 1948, a building fund committee was formed, chaired by Mr. A.J. Goldman, and a campaign for funds was inaugurated. In 1950, the drive was given new impetus and direction with the arrival of Rabbi Samuel Fox. The new synagogue was to be built at the same location and services were held in the basement of Temple B'Nai Israel until the new synagogue was completed.
On the third day of Chanukah, December 14, 1952, the synagogue was dedicated. The new synagogue and the congregation were the foundations for the growth of Traditional Judaism in our city. A Sundy school was established there and chedar was held four afternoons a week. The new building was very attractive, but in the coming years, new problems had to be faced because of its location on a busy downtown street corner.
Looking to the future with the hope of a complete synagogue facility convenient to most of the members, the property at 7901 West 5th Street was purchased in 1965. During the course of the years two small stone buildings on this property were renovated to provide classroom facilities.
In June of 1973, the congregation approved the sale of the downtown buiding, and it was vacated. A modular unit was placed at the 7901 West 5th Street site to serve as a temporary santuary, and in July, the first services at the location of the future synagogue were held.
On March 30, 1975, the congregation gathered during Passover for the joyous occasion of the Ground Breaking Ceremony for the new Agudath Achim Synagogue. In 1976 the current building was completed and a dedication was held on May 2.
100th anniversary of Congregation Agudath Achim celebrated September 18, 2005.