This material is copied or adapted from the ISJL Encyclopedia of Southern Jewish Communities.
The women of Dothan started the first official organization of Jews in Dothan with the formation of a Sisterhood chapter, due to the initiative of Mrs. Myer Blumberg. It was not until 1928, when the growing number of Jewish children made the need for a formal congregation more urgent, that Dothan’s Jews finally formed an organized congregation. The legally constituted body of Temple Emanu-El of Dothan was formed in the January of 1929, with 14 founding families. Among the founding members were children of Dothan’s earliest Jewish families: Myer Blumberg, Henry Crine, and Joe Kraselsky.
In that same year, under the leadership of its first president, Henry Crine, Temple Emanu-El bought a plot of land to construct its own building, but with the Great Depression and economic difficulties, construction on the site wouldn't begin until 1940, completed in 1941. Over the next years, Temple Emanu-El welcomed their first full-time rabbi, Rabbi Alfred Wolf, and the congregation participated in service events to support the troops during World War II. When Rabbi Wolf retired, the Temple welcomed additional full-time rabbis, and expanded and improved the original building in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. Even an electrical fire in 1967 couldn't keep the congregation from meeting to worship.
In 1979, Temple Emanu-El celebrated its 50th anniversary with a luncheon in its fellowship hall and an evening party at the Dothan Country Club. Their rabbi at the time, Paul Tuchman, compiled a small booklet that briefly summarized the history of Jewish life in Dothan since 1929 and included letters of reflection from past rabbis, including one from Rabbi Wolf in which he fondly recalled the early days of Temple Emanu-El.
Temple Emanu-El celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2004. The Temple's Rabbi Larry Mahrer retired in 2006, and in 2007, the Temple hired its first full-time female rabbi, Lynne Goldsmith. Additionally, in the fall of 2007 a group of committed members of the Temple, with financial backing from the Blumberg family of Dothan, started the Blumberg Family Jewish Community Services (JCS), which supports the Temple and aims to attract new Jewish families to Dothan through its Family Relocation Program.
Rabbi Lynne retired in 2017 and was presented a key to the city by Mayor Mike Schmitz for her many contributions, including fostering interfaith relationships in Dothan. The congregation is pleased to welcome rabbinic student Caroline Sim to worship with us in the coming year.
With a powerful combination of strong lay leadership and community support, Temple Emanu-El is full of positive vitality. Membership and Religious School enrollment have grown, and its Sisterhood, Brotherhood, and Hadassah remain strong. The members are proud to say that Temple Emanu-El is “small but mighty,” standing tall as the only house of Jewish worship, study, and assembly within a 90 mile radius.