The Temple Beth-El, located in downtown Pensacola, Florida, is the oldest dedicated Jewish house of worship in Florida. The temple was founded in 1876.Beth-El is a member of the Union for Reform Judaism, and has led the congregation in Reform Judaism services since the temple's foundation. The current rabbi is Joel Fleekop.HistoryThe first Jews who migrated to northwest Florida originally stopped at Milton, twenty miles to the east, because Milton was a national hub for lumber production and distribution in the South (the first Jews to the area were skilled in lumber production; they came from heavily wooded areas in what is now southern Germany). Sensing more business opportunities to the west, a congregation settled in Pensacola and founded a Reform temple after forming in 1876. Many of the lumber workers in Milton did not follow the congregation, and eventually started a smaller Jewish community in Okaloosa County when lumber opportunities dried up. The male members of Beth-El's first congregation consisted largely of businessmen and tavern owners.Temple Beth-El is now in its third building, still in its same spot on 800 North Palafox Street. The current building, designed in the 1930s, is an example of Art Deco architecture, which was prominent in Florida at the time.
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