History of Temple Shalom of Northwest Arkansas
For many years, the small Jewish community in Northwest Arkansas, including University of Arkansas students, faculty and others, met in a variety of Fayetteville locations. Community members organized religious school, services, holiday celebrations, potlucks and visiting rabbis and speakers. Eventually, the Sam Barg Hillel House was purchased by the U of A Jewish student organization, Hillel. In early 1981, members of the growing community met to discuss organizing a formal congregation. On February 23, 1981, Temple Shalom was established. Jay Lewis was elected first president. Rabbi Norbert Rosenthal, emeritus rabbi of Tulsa’s Temple Israel, was hired to lead monthly and High Holiday services, which were held at the Unitarian Fellowship. Hillel House was used for religious school, Temple events and student activities. Visiting rabbis were hired on a yearly basis until 2006 when Jacob Adler, a University philosophy professor, was ordained and became the first resident rabbi.
When the congregation outgrew Hillel House, a former fraternity house across the street was rented from the University in 1999. It was adequate for Hillel and Temple activities, including religious school, although monthly and High Holiday services were still held at the Fellowship. By 2005, the congregation had grown to about 60 families; many began to think seriously about owning a building. Hillel sold the house it owned and donated the proceeds to the project.
In 2007, Temple Shalom purchased land at the corner of Sang Avenue and Cleveland Street on which to build a combined Temple Shalom and University of Arkansas Hillel home. An initial financial contribution from Miriam Ella Alford made the Temple building possible as well as the contribution of Fadil Bayyari, a Palestinian Muslim, whose construction company provided services at cost. The building was completed in the fall of 2009.