Beth El Center (Oak Ridge - Roane County)

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Beth El Center (Oak Ridge - Roane County)


The Jewish Community of Oak Ridge (JCOR) was established in 1943 in response to the growing Jewish community in Oak Ridge in the early 1940s. The federal government’s use of Oak Ridge as a Manhattan Project site in 1942 spurred the migration of Jewish families into Tennessee’s secret city. The Jewish community conducted their first religious service in Oak Ridge’s non-denominational Chapel-on-the-Hill on October 15, 1943. As Oak Ridge developed further, the fledgling Jewish community created religious and social organizations, such as a Ladies Auxiliary, a local branch of the National Council of Jewish Women, and a Hadassah chapter, before establishing a formal congregation. The 1950s marked a turning point for this unique Jewish community when the congregation obtained their own Torah from a congregation in Brooklyn, New York in 1951; constructed their own synagogue, the Beth El Center, in 1952; and hired their first rabbi in 1954. Representing a mixture of Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox members, in 1959 JCOR joined the Conservative Movement. In the 1960s, the Beth El Center was expanded to include a social hall. In 1983, JCOR has had a Reform rabbi; in 1996, they left the Conservative movement. Though Oak Ridge’s Jewish community has declined since the 1940s, there remains an active congregation today as the Department of Energy sites in Oak Ridge continue to recruit Jewish scientists and engineers.


Jewish Congregation of Oak Ridge. "History." Accessed February 4, 2019.


c. 1960


Johnson, Elizabeth, photographer.


20th Century


“Beth El Center (Oak Ridge - Roane County),” Tennessee Jewish Heritage Digital Archive Project, accessed September 29, 2020,

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