Temple Israel traces its roots to the arrival in Springfield of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe in the last decades of the nineteenth century. They established Congregation B’nai Abraham an Orthodox synagogue founded in 1895 and located at Seventh and Mason Streets, close to the near north and east side neighborhoods, where the majority of the immigrant Jewish community lived. As currently chartered, Temple Israel was founded in 1957 by five families who were seeking a more modernized version of traditional Judaism and who donated the land at Lincoln and Governor, where the congregation is now located. This new congregation welcomed those who had been affiliated with B’nai Abraham. Over the course of the years Temple Israel’s membership grew, as the expansion of state government and the founding of Sangamon State University (now University of Illinois Springfield) and the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine afforded employment opportunities for Jews from Chicago, St. Louis and other large metropolitan areas. Originally affiliated with the Conservative movement, Temple Israel has evolved over the decades and now identifies itself as nondenominational.
Congregation B’nai Abraham’s rabbis were, for the most part, graduates of the Hebrew Theological College in Chicago. Most notable among them was Rabbi Louis Cardon, who led the congregation from 1933 to 1947, oversaw the construction of the Talmud Torah building adjacent to the Seventh Street synagogue, and served in the military chaplaincy during World War II. In its first decade, Temple Israel was led by Rabbis Milton Schlinsky, Aaron Segal, and Sidney Lubin.
In 1959, Temple Israel laid the cornerstone for its current home at 1140 W. Governor Street. Dedication ceremonies for the completed synagogue took place in 1962.
From 1973 to 2020, Temple Israel was led by Rabbi Barry Marks, whose years of dedication not just to the Jewish community but to Springfield as a whole earned him the 2011 State Journal-Register First Citizen Award. Rabbi Marks remains a lifetime member of the community and rabbi emeritus, as Temple Israel moves into the future with new spiritual leader Rabbi Arthur Stern.