B’nai Israel Congregation has a rich history in the city of Norfolk. As the namesake of the oldest and largest Orthodox congregation in the Tidewater area, we have history and customs that remain from the merger of several synagogues.
The Twentieth Street Synagogue and K’hal Chasidim from downtown Norfolk united and became the United Orthodox Synagogue in 1946 when our present sanctuary was established.
In its early stages, the congregation focused on outreach to the young, American-born generation and obtained an English speaking Rabbi. Outreach has always been a trademark of B’nai Israel. Years later, the synagogue merged with B’nai Israel Congregation of downtown Norfolk and assumed its name in the 1950s.
The present synagogue building was redesigned in 2000, merging the old county ta’am (flavor) of the original main sanctuary with the modern-age kitchens, classrooms and Minyan Room.
The synagogue was— and is, to an extent—unique in that it opens its doors to all Jewish worshipers whether they can or cannot afford membership.
The focus of the congregation is to provide an outlet for traditional Judaism in the Tidewater area for both young and old.