Agudas Achim – “Unity of Bretheren”
Our synagogue was chartered on November 29, 1889.
We were an Orthodox congregation, founded in the midst of the great Transatlantic Migration of Jews from Eastern Europe, and an outgrowth of an earlier informal organization of traditional Jews of San Antonio.
Watch Our Bench Dedication Highlight Video
The congregation hired a spiritual leader, Rabbi Moses Edelhertz, in time to conduct High Holy Day services, which were held at the Knights of Pythias Hall on the corner of Houston and Soledad Streets.
In addition, Agudas Achim purchased property on Palmetto Street for its cemetery and conducted its first burial there in October.
The congregation purchased property on the San Antonio River, at the corner of Aubrey and Guilbeau Streets, for its first permanent home.
The synagogue was designed by the noted architect J. Riley Gordon, and was dedicated in September, 1898. The design was of Moorish inspiration, with a large domed roof and smaller domes on the corners of the building. The synagogue had a separate balcony for women, and could seat 240, but could be increased to 500 with temporary seating. The ark from that shul still exists, and adorns the Vexler Chapel of the Heubner Road synagogue.
Agudas Achim had about 75 families.
The congregation established its Hebrew School that year and engaged Dr. B. Lichtenhartz, a political exile from Russia with two doctorates from European universities, as the first principal. It met at 248 Blum Street (where Rivercenter Mall is now located). Our congregation grew so large during these years that it outgrew the Aubrey Street synagogue.
Our first building on Old Guilbeau Street was destroyed by the Great Flood of 1921.
We met in a rented space from 1921-23 because the building was destroyed.
After meeting in a rented space for almost two years, Agudas Achim consecrated its Main Avenue synagogue on August 5, 1923.
This building would serve our congregation for 31 years. By October 1929, the synagogue had grown so rapidly that the Board was faced with an unusual situation: the congregation’s home, only six years old, was already too small.
The congregation purchased a large tract on Donaldson and St. Cloud Avenues, near Jefferson High School, in what was then the heart of the Jewish community.
Agudas Achim soon affiliated with the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. The Donaldson Avenue synagogue was dedicated in 1954, and would serve the congregation for more than four decades.
The Donaldson Avenue synagogue was the focus of what had become a large and active congregation in a growing and active Jewish community.
Our Sisterhood and Men’s Club won various awards for innovative programming, such as our own Boy Scout troop; and in the early 1970s, we began our annual Israeli Festival, which remained an official Fiesta San Antonio event for more than 20 years.
The Jewish demographics in San Antonio were changing, and Agudas Achim found itself 10 miles or so from the homes of many of its members.
The congregation realized that it had to move in order to remain viable, and so property was purchased on Huebner and Bitters Roads in 1992 for its fourth home. The 1990s saw a revival of our congregation.
A Ground Breaking Ceremony
On June 11th, 1995, a ground-breaking ceremony was held for our new synagogue building.
Dedication of Congregation Agudas Achim
September 8th, 1996 saw the grand opening and unveiling of our new synagogue. Over 1,000 people attended, including religious leaders of all faiths, local and state dignitaries, congregants, members of other San Antonio Jewish congregations, and the media.
The new building was designed by architect Maurice Feingold of Feingold, Alexander & Associates, whose portfolio consists of the Holocaust Museum, Ellis Island restoration and other acclaimed projects. It is the fourth building in the congregation’s history, and continues to be one of the oldest active Jewish congregations in South Texas.
The First-Ever Texas Kosher BBQ Championship
Now a legendary annual tradition, the Texas Kosher BBQ Championship was first held in October of 2013. After taking a brief hiatus due to COVID, 2022 will mark its grand return as the 8th Annual Texas Kosher BBQ Championship, and H-E-B continues to remain as our trustworthy Kosher Meat Provider. Twenty teams battling it out to win honors for the best Kosher brisket, chicken, fish, and beans, combined with live music, entertainment & all-you-can-eat Kosher BBQ for its attendees – what’s not to love?
Dedication of the Kavy Family Pavilion
Located by the Preschool entrance of Agudas Achim, the Kavy Family Pavilion Dedication took place on November 14th, 2021, marking its unveiling and grand opening.
Agudas Achim Dedicates New Art Installation to Rabbi Louis Schechter (z’l)
The evening of August 8th, 2022 marked a truly memorable occasion here at the grounds of Agudas Achim, as we dedicated a new sculpture titled ‘Bracha Bench’ at the entrance of the synagogue. The sculpture memorializes the legacy of Rabbi Louis Schechter of blessed memory, who was the spiritual leader of Agudas Achim from 1985 – 1989.
The art installation was placed to the left of Agudas Achim’s primary entrance and is surrounded by custom native landscape to create a reflection area for all members of the Jewish community. The bench was designed by noted San Antonio visual artist Oscar Alvarado, whose work can be seen throughout the city in such landmarks as Yanaguana Garden at Hemisphere, The Rim, Texas A&M San Antonio, and The River Walk.