Temple Emanuel (Hebrew for “God be with us”) in Pueblo, Colorado is the one of the oldest synagogues still routinely used in the state. Its structure has not been altered since its dedication, and it represents the Jewish people of Pueblo who have been present since 1864.
Pueblo’s 1870 census listed twelve Jewish families in its population of 700 people. They came largely from Germany at first, then Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Russia with the gold rush in Denver and later in part due to Colorado’s recognition as “The World’s Sanatorium,” supposedly healthier because of its dry, sunny climate. The small congregation held services in an upstairs of a furniture business until they reached 40 to 50 families. These groups united and organized the building of a synagogue. Instrumental in the synagogue’s creation was the Ladies Temple Association, which later became known as the Temple Emanuel Congregation.
Local Pueblo architect Jacob Gile designed Temple Emanuel using Queen Anne and Richardsonian Romanesque elements. The choice of Queen Anne was unique for ecclesiastical architecture, but it was a popular style elsewhere at the time in Colorado. The Queen Anne style is evident in the various materials used to avoid a smooth-walled appearance, such as the tan sand-stone, red brick, and wood shingles, as well as the polygonal towers and raised entry. The Richardsonian Romanesque style is largely seen in the Syrian arch above the entrance— an elongated one opposed to horseshoe or narrow, and the rough stone base. The synagogue is not a massive structure like other religious buildings in Colorado, but designers made it to seat about 200, and its opera chairs and stained glass windows were new for a house of worship in Pueblo.
The Ladies Temple Association bought the land and held a bazaar to raise money to build the synagogue. Another important figure who helped found the temple was Abraham Goldsmith and his family, founding members of the Pueblo Jewish community. Workers completed the temple in 1900, and a well-known Chicago rabbi joined a former governor of Colorado, Alva Adams, to conduct the dedication ceremony. The local papers referred to Temple Emanuel as “the little Jewel box.”
The congregation lost members during the Great Depression when many Jews left the city, but they still continued operation. The small congregation later gained public attention in 1986 when they made history as one of the first locations to have their High Holy Days services (the most widely observed Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashanah/Jewish New Year and Yom Kippur/Day of Atonement) led by a woman rabbi. The congregation successfully petitioned to have Temple Emanuel placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1996. In 2019, Temple Emanuel experienced a bomb threat made by an extremist, which was thwarted by the FBI, but caused a national stir. While the threat exposed the level of antisemitism that Jewish communities still face today, it also demonstrated the firm support of the wider community, who vocally denounced the violence. At the Shabbat service (day of observance in Judaism) following the exposed plot, 400 members of the Pueblo community, many non-Jews, attended in solidarity, forming a human chain around the temple to honor the Jewish community and their place in Pueblo life.